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EMBL to Use New Funds to Bolster EBI, Support Life Science Startups

NEW YORK, Dec 8 –The European Molecular Biology Laboratory will use a newly approved five-year budget increase to bolster its activities and those of its bioinformatics arm, the European Bioinformatics Institute, an EMBL spokesman said Friday.

EMBL's 16 member states also voted in favor of launching several new initiatives that focus on supporting the development of European life science companies.

“The last five years in Europe were very low funding for life science in general,” Russ Hodge, a public information officer at EMBL, told GenomeWeb. ”A large part of it has been because EU policies have been detrimental to   [scientific] infrastructures and Europe-wide scientific initiatives. This has made up for lost ground.”

At the end of November EMBL's member nations unanimously approved a 25.3 percent increase in the lab’s budget over the next five years, to 51.3 million euros ($45.3 million) in 2001 and nearly 57 million euros by 2005.

The institute will use the additional funding to provide a desperately needed financial boost to the EBI.

Sixty percent of the initial increase will go toward bolstering EBI, which has been in dire straits since it lost funding from the EU. This funding will go toward developing and maintaining “urgently needed” database resources and increased training and research, an EMBL statement said.  

But the increase will only provide 40 percent of EBI’s budget, and the Institute will have to raise the remaining 60 percent from governments and private sources.

EMBL also voted to establish a new incubator for start-up life sciences companies, which the institute's technology transfer arm EMBLEM will open in its Heidelberg Headquarters.

EMBLEM will build an International Technology Transfer Center on EMBL’s Heidelberg campus to provide “incubator and accelerator space for startup companies from all over Europe,” Hodge said.   

This space, which is to be completed by June 2002, will include lab space open to any startups from EMBL’s member states. The companies will be able to operate out of this space for a period of time, which is to be flexible, “then we will export them to our member states,” said Hodge.  

Additionally, the ITTC will provide training for member states nationals in technology transfer, enabling them to turn science into business opportunities.

ITTC will be funded by proceeds of past EMBL technology transfer activities, such as the Lion Biosciences stock that the laboratory received in return for the transfer of IP to Lion. EMBL was the source for all of Lion’s initial IP. EMBLEM has sold a portion of its shares in Lion and other companies to fund its continued operations, said Hodge.

EMBL’s members also approved EMBLEM’s proposal to create the EMBL Technology Transfer Fund, a 50-million-euro endowment fund for capital investment in startup life sciences companies, either those associated with EMBL or biotech startups in EMBL member companies.

“The partners in this fund are shooting for a target of 50 million euros,” said Hodge.

EMBLEM will create the fund, but external investors will build and manage the fund, which will make decisions based on market-oriented basis.   The money contributed by EMBLEM will be additional to any funds contributed to EMBL's general budget.

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