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Systems Biology Infrastructure Industry Survey Results Published

On 2nd June 2015, the Infrastructure for Systems Biology Europe (ISBE), a European research infrastructure, presented the results from an "Industry Survey" undertaken by ISC – Intelligence in Science at the company’s Brussels offices.

Brussels, Belgium, June 19, 2015 --( The participation of companies in this industrial sector of the EU economy, key findings regarding standardisation, data stewardship, impacts of EU data protection legislative changes and industry views on necessary next steps were presented. In terms of the biggest barriers to innovation in the sector, 63% of industry respondents stated there was a lack of knowledge about existing resources (a response most common amongst SME respondents). Whilst 56% expressed concern about carrying out proprietary research in this area, a significant proportion (35%) of respondents also raised competition for limited resource in this sector (particularly personnel availability) as a serious barrier to innovation.

Further challenges were also presented at the meeting including concerns relating to collection, use, and dissemination of research data by companies working in the area of systems biology. A need to standardise industry models being used and the guidelines for processing data was seen by 84% of respondents as a major challenge in the industry. Following this, 56% saw proper stewardship of data collected (including re-use of data) as a real concern whilst 42% said that both access to education (better engagement with academic institutions) and funding were serious challenges in the sector. Competition with the US and Asia in this space was less of a worry but 14% of respondents still saw this as a challenge for the future, in line with other areas of European research and development.

The ISBE research infrastructure aims to empower scientists to understand how living organisms function to a level that allows effective intervention in how biological systems operate. This will allow life-science researchers to better deliver solutions that address ‘grand’ societal challenges in the fields of health and quality of life, bio-economy and sustainability. The benefits of a fully operational ISBE to industry were seen as being three-fold. First, it will accelerate research undertaken in systems biology by reducing the time taken to gather data and train researchers. It will improve the level of cooperation between networks of researchers and, finally, it will reduce other costs associated with such research including transaction costs of operating laboratories and reversing a ‘brain drain’ to the US.

In terms of next steps, participants in the survey had clear goals they expected of ISBE. 74% emphasised the need to standardise and ensure interoperability of data, coming alongside a need to provide effective ‘data stewardship and curation’. Providing training and further access to resources such as software tools, maps and models was seen as important by 59% of survey respondents. This information is encouraging at a time when ISBE moves from completion of its first ‘Preparatory Phase’ of operation in August 2015, to the Phase 2 ‘Construction’ phase.
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