The ERASysBio Coordination Action springs from a Specific Support Action (SSA) that has already laid the foundations of this new network. It brings together funding agencies from 13 countries including Israel and Russia. Associate partners Luxembourg and Switzerland are expected to join later. It will build not only on national programmes in systems biology but also upon several European efforts springing from EUREKA, the European Science Foundation, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and several other EU-supported projects.
The first step will be to collect information about the projects and programmes under way in the 12 partner countries and their plans for the future. Next, the partners will draft a research agenda in systems biology for the period 2006-2008 outlining topics of common interest and potential for future collaboration. Once an agreed agenda is in place, the partners will start to pave the way for new transnational funding initiatives by setting up the appropriate contractual arrangements and a joint funding scheme. A web-based service to help students and researchers set up exchanges will be provided through the existing European Researchers Mobility Portal. A public information campaign will be developed at the same time. Finally, the project will manage, with national agencies, two series of synchronised funding rounds. A pilot one on the systems biology of micro-organisms has already been launched at the end of 2005. A further one will focus on topics yet to be decided. Networking will be promoted by partnering and brokerage events. By the end of the three-year ERASysBio several research projects should be under way.
Systems biology will have obvious applications in medicine, such as in the rational design of pharmaceuticals, especially those involving several different molecular targets. It will also help in the development of drugs specific to small groups of people or even individuals, made possible by new insights from genome research. Outside medicine, systems biology is likely to have a big impact on agriculture and biotechnology and is expected to be a major contributor to Europe’s industrial future.
Computational biology; systems engineering; informatics; mathematics