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Finland Invests $6.7M to Connect Biobanking, Bioinformatics, and Translational Research Resources

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Finland has committed €5 million ($6.7 million) to support a national project called Biomedinfra that aims to link the country's biobanking, bioinformatics, and translational research resources — and will also connect to a much larger EU effort to integrate resources in these three areas.

The recent investment follows a €1.85 million ($2.6 million) contribution by the Finnish research community last year to help create synergies between the European Life Sciences Infrastructure for Biological Innovation, or ELIXIR; the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure, or BBMRI; and the European Advanced Translational Research Infrastructure in Medicine, or EATRIS (BI 02/04/2010).

According to a statement from the University of Helsinki, Biomedinfra will develop a biobanking infrastructure for epidemiological, biomedical, and clinical research; create high-performance computing infrastructure to facilitate next-generation biomedical data analysis; and build a translational research infrastructure aimed at using biobank data to advance diagnostics and personalized medicine.

The country hopes that the infrastructure will improve healthcare in Finland, provide opportunities for international collaboration and research services, and help to integrate its research infrastructure with the EU's efforts.

The funds for Biomedinfra will come from the Ministry of Education and Culture through the Academy of Finland, which will contribute €4 million ($5.4 million), and from participating institutes — the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland at the University of Helsinki; the CSC - IT Center for Science; and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, or THL — which will provide €1 million ($1.3 million).

Janet Thornton, coordinator of the ELIXIR infrastructure for biological information, said that Finland's efforts, along with the country's cooperation with pan-European efforts, "will provide a sustainable bedrock to allow data and sample exchange both within and between countries and will accelerate future scientific discoveries."

Tommi Nyrönen, who leads development at CSC, said that Biomedinfra's support will enable Finland to make a substantial contribution to the EU effort, adding that his institute has begun developing cloud-based high-performance computing and storage services that are "tailored to the needs of biomedical researchers."

The new funds will "enable us to develop technologies and policies to ensure that distributed biomedical data can be managed and used efficiently and securely," he said.

Anu Jalanko, head of the public health genomics unit at THL, said that the funds will be "essential to build the Finnish national biobank network," noting that the country has created several biobank resources that are often used internationally.

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