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Cell Biology and BiophysicsEllenberg Group

Collaborative Projects

Euro-BioImaging

Jan Ellenberg is Scientific Coordinator of Euro-BioImaging, an ESFRI (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures) project coordinated by EMBL.

Euro-BioImaging will act as the European research infrastructure in the field of biomedical imaging. The innovation-driven nature of Euro-BioImaging facilities will strengthen Europe’s leading role in developing and implementing cutting-edge imaging technologies. Through Euro-BioImaging, the provision of high quality services by one legal entity and the establishment of standardised access models to biomedical imaging technologies will foster national and European collaboration among research institutes, exchange of methods and expertise, and greatly accelerated access to emerging innovative imaging methods.

Euro-BioImaging will secure state-of-the-art-technology transfer by training future professionals in R&D and by providing comprehensive, standardized training curricula to users of biomedical imaging infrastructures. Furthermore, Euro-BioImaging will provide top-level imaging services to other research infrastructures in biological and medical sciences, allowing them to deliver world-class research based on data standardization, best practice and coordination of research activities. Given the broad range of imaging technologies coordinated through Euro-BioImaging, the research infrastructure will facilitate the translation of basic results to medical applications, from bench to bedside. New opportunities for commercial exploitations of methods through European optical and medical device manufacturers will also be created. In this context Euro-BioImaging has already created an industry board with all leading vendors and producers of biomedical imaging equipment in Europe.

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MitoSys

Jan Ellenberg is Work Package Leader in MitoSys, a large scale integrated project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme.

MitoSys will generate a comprehensive mathematical understanding of mitotic division in human cells, a process of fundamental importance for human health. To achieve this ambitious goal, internationally leading mathematicians, biochemists/biophysicists and biologists working at twelve universities, research institutes, international organizations and companies in eight different European countries collaborate. MitoSys will focus on four biological modules that represent the most important aspects of the mitotic cell division process;(i) spindle assembly,(ii) the spindle assembly checkpoint and kinetochores,(iii) segregation of mitotic chromosomes and (iv) mitotic exit. Computational models of these separate modules will be integrated into a comprehensive model of mitosis that combines these steps of mitosis with regulation by protein kinases and ubiquitin ligases.

To be able to achieve these tasks, the modellers will be supported by biologists and physicists who will use microscopic imaging, biochemistry, biophysics, single-molecule techniques and proteomics to generate kinetic and other quantitative data suitable for model building. To evaluate the relevance of the mathematical models for human health and disease, other biologists will subject selected key predictions from these models to rigorous in-vivo tests by using conditional "knock-out" mice. MitoSys will compile and disseminate its own data and models, but also datasets from public sources, in a web-database, which will serve as a systems biology resource for the scientific community. To train other scientists in systems biology, MitoSys will organize a practical workshop on mathematical modelling. Finally, MitoSys will inform the general public about systems biology of mitosis and its relevance to health and disease by organizing an exhibition, which will be displayed in several European cities. The Ellenberg Group is responsible for development of a quantitative imaging platform and its use in data generation and model validation in MitoSys.

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SystemsMicroscopy

Jan Ellenberg is Work Package Leader in SystemsMicroscopy, a network of excellence funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme.

Biological processes occur in space and time, but current experimental methods for systems biology are limited in their ability to resolve this spatiotemporal complexity of life. In addition, traditional “omics” methods often suffer from limited sensitivity and need to average over populations of cells at the expense of cell to cell variation. Next-generation systems biology therefore requires methods that can capture data and build models in four dimensions, three-dimensional space and time, and needs to address dynamic events in single living cells. In fact, recent advances in automated fluorescence microscopy, cell microarray platforms, highly specific probes, quantitative image analysis and data mining provide a powerful emerging technology platform to enable systems biology of the living cell. These imaging technologies, here referred to as “Systems microscopy”, will be a cornerstone for next-generation systems biology to elucidate and understand complex and dynamic molecular, sub-cellular and cellular networks. As a paradigm to enable systems biology at the cellular scale of biological organization, the SystemsMicroscopy NoE will have as its core biological theme two basic but complex cellular processes that are highly relevant to human cancer: cell division and cell migration.

Methods, strategies and tools established here will be applicable to many disease-associated processes and will be instrumental for obtaining a systems level understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying human diseases as manifested at the living cell level. Through close multidisciplinary collaborations in our programme of joint activities this NoE will develop a powerful enabling platform for next-generation systems biology and will apply these tools to understand cellular systems underlying human cancer. This provides a unique opportunity for Europe to acquire a global lead in systems microscopy.

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