East Wing will strengthen the EBI's key role in European bioinformatics

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory's European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) officially opens its new East Wing today with a reception for prominent guests. The East Wing will be jointly opened by Ian Pearson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, UK, and Robert-Jan Smits, Director of Directorate B (Structuring the European Research Area), DG Research, European Commission. The extension received just under £15 million pounds in funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the EMBL.

"In addition to functionally meeting our need for more space, the new East Wing facilities offer so much more." says Professor Janet Thornton, the EBI's director, "The blend of modern office space, attractive social areas and a dedicated training suite provide much greater opportunities to interact internally and also with our networks of collaborators, alumni and other visitors. The East Wing thereby represents a new era for the EBI and we look forward to embracing the interactions and opportunities enabled by our stunning new facilities."

The EBI's spatial expansion is representative of the growth the institute has seen in use of its resources since its inception in 1995 with 70 staff and 2 main databases. The EBI now employs over 330 staff who contribute to the EBI's interdependent bioinformatics research areas and service provision. The new wing, which provides 2,015 square metres of space, will allow the institute to increase its staff capacity, creating approximately 70 new positions. This will enable the EBI to further enhance its activities in each of its four component areas of research, bioinformatics services, training provision and industry interaction.

The EBI is Europe's main provider of biological data resources, enabling researchers worldwide to access publicly available databases of biological data and analytical tools. The EBI website receives an average of 2 million hits a day. In parallel with the increasing role bioinformatics now plays in all aspects of biological research, the EBI has also responded to the training needs of today's researchers. The new wing contains a fully equipped training suite which enables hands-on training at the EBI in the range of resources residing there.

The facilities will also strengthen the institute's position as a hub for wider integration of bioinformatics activities in Europe. The expansion of the EBI's facilities are in line with the identification of the institute as playing a key role in the development of science and innovation by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), an independent advisory body to both the European Commission and the Member States.

Professor Iain Mattaj, EMBL's Director General commented: "At EMBL we are proud of the essential support the EBI provides to hundreds of thousands of academic and industrial researchers working in all areas of the life sciences through the development of bioinformatics tools and data resources as well as by providing training. In addition, EBI staff are engaged in world class bioinformatics research. The East Wing facilities will enable further strengthening of these contributions."

The extension was undertaken by the London office of the leading architecture firm NBBJ, who also designed the award-winning extension of the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus facilities in 2005. Continuity in design across campus reflects the scientific complementarity of the campus members and adheres to the principles of sustainability, innovation and connection between the people who work there, the environment and the surroundings.

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said: "This major boost to the facilities at EBI will strengthen the institute's world-leading role in bioinformatics. This is an important area for the UK and Europe. Bioinformatics is expanding rapidly and the data and tools it provides is generating innovative new discoveries and future business opportunities."

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Mary Todd-Bergman
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