PARIS--The European Union has come to the rescue of the continent's premier repository of DNA and protein sequence information. The E.U. is preparing to announce that it will contribute a hefty boost to the $11 million annual budget of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). The cash injection, to come over the next 3 years, will fund four new projects, including repositories of data from "gene chips" and protein-protein interactions.
This is the second major piece of good news that the financially troubled EBI, located near Cambridge, United Kingdom, has received in the past 6 months. Last December, the governing council of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany--EBI's parent organization--agreed to bail out the institute after E.U. officials had decided to stop funding routine operating costs for a number of European research centers (ScienceNOW, December 2000).
The E.U. money will fund four new projects: a database for information derived from "DNA arrays," which monitor the expression of thousands of genes at once; a data bank of three-dimensional protein structures; a database of biochemical interactions between proteins; and a project to integrate several existing EBI databases so that researchers can conduct more sweeping searches. The EBI, slated to receive $11.3 million for these projects over the next 3 years, will carry them out in collaboration with 30 other labs in 11 European countries. EBI's partners will share an additional $5.7 million in E.U. funding.
"This is a day for celebration," says EBI co-director Graham Cameron. "It is the biggest dollop of money ever put into [European] bioinformatics infrastructure." He points out that "this kind of science creates its record in electronic form," and that the E.U. funds should better position EBI to "carry on its crucial role as a custodian of this record."