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CORRECTION: EBI Funding Falls 10 Percent in 2009

This article has been corrected to more accurately reflect EBI's 2009 funding when including money it received for the ELIXR project, as well as the stage of development of that project.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The European Bioinformatics Institute finished 2009 with a decline in overall funding paced by a 20 percent slide in external funding — as well as with improvements in its storage capacity and computing power, an increase in staff, and growing demand for its services, according to its recently-released Annual Scientific Report 2009.

Total funding for EBI dipped roughly 10 percent, to €39 million in 2009 from more than €43.2 million in 2008 — despite a 3 percent rise in internal funding from its parent organization, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, from €19.4 million in '08 to €20 million last year.

Total funding amounts did not include funding for the European Life Sciences Infrastructure for Biological Information, or ELIXIR, a consortium of 32 organizations from 13 countries developed in 2008 to create a sustainable infrastructure for biological information in Europe. Had ELIXIR been included, EBI's total funding would have been €51 million, an 18 percent increase over the previous year.

External funding for EBI from sources outside of EMBL fell from €23.8 million in 2008 to €19 million in 2009. That external-funding dip did not account for €12 million contributed to EBI toward the first phase of construction for ELIXR.

The preparatory phase of ELIXIR, which was funded through a €4.5 million grant awarded in 2008, is due to end in 2011; the project will then enter its construction phase. The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council awarded EBI £10 million (about €12 million or $16.1 million) in August 2009 to increase the institute’s data storage and handling capacity — a first step toward transforming EBI into ELIXIR's hub. EBI said at the time the overall cost of ELIXIR "is significantly more than £200 million."

The European Commission contributed €8.8 million in 2009, up €2 million from the previous year. However, EBI saw a €3.2 million reduction in funding from the Wellcome Trust, from €7.5 million in 2008 to €4.3 million last year. Wellcome Trust also supports EBI by providing it with its buildings, something not included in the external financial figure.

Louisa Wright, EBI outreach programme project leader, told GWDN the 2008 figure for Wellcome Trust included "significant funding" from Wellcome Trust for an expanded European archive of DNA raw sequence data, called the Trace Archive, designed to accommodate increased data volume from new technology sequencing machines.

Also included in the 2008 funding was €5.8 million for the development of a chemogenomics resource, through which a large collection of information on the properties and activities of drugs, and a large set of drug-like small molecules was transferred from publicly listed company Galapagos NV to the public domain. That database was launched this week.

"The Trace Archive included large equipment funds, which would have been shown — though not necessarily spent — in year one of the grant and included in our 2008 funding calculations," Wright said.

Joining Wellcome Trust in reducing funding for EBI during 2009 were the UK National Institutes of Health, down to €3.2 million from €3.4 million in 2008; the UK Research Councils, down to €2.2 million from €2.4 million; and the EBI Industry Programme, down to €0.6 million from €0.7 million.

Meanwhile, other external funding sources nearly quintupled between 2008 and 2009, jumping to €4.8 million from €1 million.

According to the 2009 report, the institute's staff grew by 3.5 percent during the most recent fiscal year, to 406 from 48 countries as of October 2009 compared with 392 from 47 countries at the end of 2008.

EBI reported that it sliced its spending on computer equipment in '09, to €4.2 million from €5.2 million a year earlier. But the institute enjoyed storage and computing power gains, as its data storage capacity doubled from 2.5 petabytes in '08 to 5 petabytes the following year. EBI's computational power jumped year-to-year, from 6,200 CPU cores in '08 to more than 9,000 CPU cores in '09, EBI said.

"Looking ahead we expect these figures to double again in 2010," Petteri Jokinen, technical team leader for EBI's Systems Group, said in the annual report.

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