Multi-nation Programme on Functional Genomics

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Multi-nation Programme on Functional Genomics

The European Science Foundation programme, Integrated Approaches for Functional Genomics, aims to enhance the development and collaboration of functional genomics research in Europe. The programme is designed to bring together a wide range of functional genomics researchers, to help Europe take advantage of new technologies and genomics information by supporting an integrative approach. The unique structure of the programme encourages experts to mix and share their knowledge with others and younger scientists alike. It is designed to facilitate a pan-European approach to research problems and foster collaborations amongst the participating countries.

Set up in 2000, the programme will run for 5 years and is funded by science and research councils in 23 supporting countries. In the UK, the BBSRC, the MRC and NERC all contribute to the funding. It is overseen by a steering committee consisting of a senior scientist representing each country. The chairman is Mike Taussig of the Babraham Institute, Cambridge. The committee meets once a year to evaluate the success of past events and set directions for the upcoming year.

The programme covers all major areas of functional genomicsÖ

● Analysis of phenotypic changes resulting from mutagenesis and gene disruption

● DNA arrays and chips in expression profiling and mutation detection

● Proteomics: protein identification, characterisation, expression and interactions

● Structural genomics: protein structure determination, classification, modelling and docking

● In silico methods for the description of cellular systems by data and literature mining, predictions and simulations

● Standardisation, benchmarking and comparison of different experimental systems

● Data management: databases, interfaces and ontologies

● Combination and integration of functional genomics data to derive new biological knowledge

Programme activities include workshops, training courses, lecture courses and exchange grants for short-term inter-laboratory visits. A web site has been set up specifically to co-ordinate the programme, advertise events and provide the international functional genomics community with valuable resources (see The site contains all relevant information on the events running, including reports from previous meetings. These are circulated to a mailing list. To join the list and receive information on deadlines and meeting updates, please go to the “Join Us” button on the top of each page. This feature also allows scientists to add their details to an open directory where one can search for potential collaborators or experts in certain fields of research. The web site is maintained at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

Scientists working in any participating country are eligible to attend events without paying registration fees and the only requirement for exchange grants is that either the host laboratory or the applicant must belong to one of the participating countries. The programme encourages applications from across the continent and funds events in different countries. In 2003 the following workshops and courses have been planned and there is a further call for proposals with a deadline of March 1st 2003.

Functional genomics and disease May 14-17th Prague, Czech Rep
New in vivo imaging modalities for Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Physiology May 31st – June 4th Roscoff, France
Regulatory and functional RNAs: computational, genomic and structural approaches July 27th – August 8th Benasque, Spain
From gene array to gene-a-row summer
(Date to be finalised)
Leuven, Belgium
Biocrystallography: From gene to drug September 8-11th Trieste, Italy
Data integration in functional genomics and proteomics: application to biological pathways September – mid-October (Date to be finalised ) Geneva, Switzerland

Ample space is always programmed into workshop timetables for discussion time. These small meetings of no more than 60 participants often yield extremely valuable comments and in order to circulate these to the wider scientific community, beyond the programmeís mailing list, reports and selected reviews have been published in Comparative and Functional Genomics, a new journal covering all aspects of the systematic analysis of gene function in complex and model organisms.

The flagship event of the programme to date, will be the first major European conference, Functional Genomics and Disease, to be held in Prague, May 14th ñ 17th, 2003. It will be focused on the implications of functional genomics research for understanding and therapy of human diseases. It will bring together experts from Europe and other parts of the world for discussion of progress in oncology, infection, inherited disease and pharmacogenomics, using technologies of proteomics, transcriptomics, SNP analysis, model organisms, computation, neurological disease, mitochondrial disease and cell and gene therapy.

For further information on the programme, funding opportunities for workshops, training courses and exchange grants, please contact the programme administrator, Dr Annette Martin at
The Babraham Institute
Babraham Hall
Babraham, Cambridge
tel +44 1223 496246
fax +44 1223 496045


The DTI are pleased to announce the first major LINK Applied Genomics project award in the North-west of England. Dr Sharon OíKane, Executive Director of Research & Development at the Manchester biotechnology company Renovo Ltd, is leading the £1.3 million project entitled “Genomic Differences between Human Acute and Chronic wounds”. The project comprises a collaboration between Renovo Ltd, a leading biotechnology company developing drugs to prevent scars or accelerate wound healing, and internationally recognized centers of clinical excellence within the University of Manchester. The Dialex (Diabetes Lower Extremity Research Group) led by Professor Andrew Boulton, Dept of Medicine, will provide samples from patients suffering from diabetic foot ulcers and the Chronic Wound Research Group led by Professor Charles N McCollum, Dept of Surgery, will provide samples from patients suffering from chronic venous ulcers. The project aims to elucidate the molecular basis of impaired wound-healing in these distressing conditions and relies upon the exciting prospect of merging cutting edge gene expression profiling technology with well-characterised samples from well defined groups of patients. Such information can then be used to determine strategies for the development of new drugs to treat these conditions.

Renovo Ltd recently closed a £21 million second funding round from leading international venture capital firms and already has drugs in Phase I and II clinical trials for anti-scarring and accelerated healing indications (further information at Chronic wounds have a major negative impact on the quality of life of sufferers. Diabetes mellitus affects about 2% of the population, although this number rises to 20% in the elderly. 10% of diabetic patients have foot ulcers and 50% of all foot amputations result from non-healing diabetic foot ulcers. Venous ulcers occur in about 1% of the population but again the numbers rise to 4% in those aged over 65. Within the UK, more than 60% of community nursing time is estimated to be spent dressing chronic venous ulcers costing the NHS approximately £500 million per annum (about 1% of the total NHS budget). Nearly all current treatments are ineffective, with 80% of ulcers reoccurring within 1 year of initial healing.

Renovo is committed to maintaining strong links with patients, clinicians, and the academic research community which are essential to delivering on the promise of genomics to improve healthcare.


Effecting Change: Biocatalysis for the 21st Century.

The latest dissemination conference of the LINK Applied Biocatalysis Programme was held in Manchester on 21st/22nd November 2002. The event, which was combined with the annual conference of the Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership and was also jointly sponsored by BioWise, attracted an attendance of more than 110 people from academia, Government and industry. This was a highly successful conference that was aimed at scientists and company managers that are active in, or are considering, biocatalysis. It brought together a wide range of scientific disciplines and commercial interests and illustrated very well the current status of biocatalysis research and development in the UK. It also provided an occasion for networking among the attendees, which was vigorously pursued.

A wide range of topics of relevance to biocatalysis was featured in 15 presentations. A major feature was the number of industrial potential applications that were covered which included fine chemicals, food/feed, enzymes for PCR, cleaning aids, leather processing and natural products. One session was devoted to novel bioprocessing technologies and included topics such as, ionic liquids, electrokinetic reactors, micro-reactor devices and novel reactor designs and tools for bio catalytic development. Ionic liquids and micro-reactors have only recently been applied in biological research and these contributions raised the possibilities of new dimensions to biocatalysis. Seven projects from the LINK Programme were highlighted.

The Conference Programme was as follows:

Day One

  • Biotransformations: Moving from a Niche Area of Specialist Interest to a Major Provider of Important Methodology in the Catalyst Arena. (Keynote Address). Stan Roberts, Univ. Liverpool.
  • P450 Enzymes in Biotransformations*. Nick Turner, Univ. Edinburgh.
  • Ferulic Acid Esterases for the Effective Processing of Plant Carbohydrates*. Andy Ellis, Biocatalysts Ltd.
  • Improved DNA Polymerases for PCR*. Ariel Louwrier, AbGene Ltd and Simon Baker, Birkbeck College.
  • A Novel Approach for the Isolation of Extremophiles*. Coreen Iliffe, Reckitt-Benckiser and David Hough, Univ. Bath.
  • Biocatalytic Production of Sulphoxides*. Bob Holt, Avecia Ltd.
  • Bakers Yeast Reductions of Nitro Aromatic Compounds. Andy Wells, Astra-Zeneca Ltd.
  • Transglutaminases in Leather and Textile Processing*. Martin Griffin, Nottingham Trent University.

*LINK Applied Biocatalysis

Day Two

  • Natural Catalysts for Natural Products (Keynote Address). John Sime, Zylepsis Ltd.
  • Ionic Liquids and Green Industrial Applications. Ken Seddon, Queenís University, Belfast.
  • Tools for Biocatalyst Process Development. John Woodley, University College London.
  • Electrokinetic Reactors in Bioprocessing*. Roberta Mustacchi, Univ. Oxford.
  • Novel Reactor Design for Biocatalysis incorporating Separation. David Stuckey, Imperial College, London.
  • Cytochrome P450: an Adaptable, Electrochemically-driven Oxidation Catalyst. Gordon Roberts, Univ. Leicester.
  • Bioprocessing and Monitoring in Micro Reactor Devices. Steve Haswell, Univ. Hull.

There was also a poster session that attracted 27 posters. These added greatly to the presentations and in many cases provided additional details on some of the presentation topics. The Pro-Bio Faraday Award for the best poster offered by a postdoctoral student was won by Norah O’Farrell from Glasgow Univ. with a poster entitled “Enzyme-coated microcrystals: A novel immobilisation strategy – Applications in biocatalysis and screening”.

Further details of the conference and of the Pro-Bio, BioWise and Applied Biocatalysis LINK Programme can be obtained from:

  • Dr David Garner, Pro-Bio Faraday Director, C-Tech Innovation Ltd., Capenhurst Technology Park, Chester, CH1 6EH, UK. (tel:+44 (0)151 347 2918; fax:+44 (0)151 347 2901; e-mail:
  • Dr James Craig, BioWise Chemical Portfolio Manager, AEA Technology plc, Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0QJ. (tel: 01235 433441; fax:01235 433453; email:
  • Dr Roger Cripps, Applied Biocatalysis LINK Co-ordinator, Finch House, Charlton, Malmesbury, Wilts., SN16 9DT (tel/fax: 01666 860007; email

The LINK Programme in Applied Biocatalysis

This programme, which is jointly sponsored by the DTI and BBSRC, began in 1995. A total of £5M from the sponsors and from industry has been used to fund 12 projects. The programme had as its objectives:

  1. The investigation of the basic science and technology of biocatalysis and
  2. The development of techniques and methodologies to promote the application of biocatalysts in industry

The projects have covered a wide range of topics of relevance to biocatalysis and have ranged from collaborations involving one university and one SME to multi-company partnerships often with more than one university. A total of 11 Universities have been involved together with 2 RTOs and 36 companies, including 16 SMEs. Only 5 projects have so far been completed and the last project is expected to end in March 2004. The programme is now closed to new applications.

The Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership

Background to Faraday Partnerships

A Faraday Partnership promotes improved interaction between the UK science, engineering and technology base and industry and is a managed collaborative programme in product and process innovation. It brings together researchers and businesses of all sizes through the involvement of intermediate organisations and “technology translators” (business-literate scientists and engineers) Intermediate organisations include Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs)or their analogues, government agencies, learned societies, Trade Associations or private sector laboratories.

Faraday Partnerships strengthen the way technology is developed and exploited within the UK by stimulating better coherence between researchers and new product developers. By bringing active players together around a common sector or technology theme, with common targets and agreed methods of working , the necessary elements for coherence are put in place. Central to this is style of management that seeks to work for the benefit of the Partnerships as a whole, rather than a sectional and self-interested group or organisation. It optimises innovation and ensures effective use of UK resources. Faraday Partnerships work in subjects identified from Foresight priorities and technology needs of a knowledge driven economy. They are in topics of key importance to the industrial well-being of the UK.

(acknowledgement: extract from Faraday Partnerships – Wealth from Knowledge)

Objectives of the Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership

The overall aim of The Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership (Pro-Bio for short) is to assist the uptake of biocatalysis for economic, environmental and safety improvements in manufacturing industry, and to promote the development of new technology within academia and the subsequent uptake of that technology within industry.

Pro-Bio targets the companies that are already using biocatalysis, as well as those companies that do not currently have sufficient expertise to realise the full potential of this fast developing field. Pro-Bio activities can be split into two sections, those aimed at generic activities to assist the market as a whole, and industry and academic specific actions to help individual members. Generic activities

Examples of some of the activities are given below:

Research: Pro-Bio uses an industrial and academic advisory panel to administer its research programme. As well as flagship projects Pro-Bio supports CASE studentships, and other research programmes submitted to the research councils for funding.

Technology reports: A series of technology reports are produced each year. These reports are identified by Pro-Bio members as being of value to their operations.

Workshops / conferences: Workshops are held during the year to provide a forum for experts to present information to the community. These workshops can either be technology or commercially based. Again, subjects for the workshops are identified by Pro-Bio members

Technology roadmapping: A recent initiative by Pro-Bio is the production of a roadmap for the strategic advances likely to take place over the next 15 to 20 year horizon. This aims to identify not just the likely advances, but how these will be linked together and so generate new market opportunities. Roadmapping is a continuing exercise and will be used to assist Pro-Bio in setting strategic research objectives as well as industrial priorities.

Liaison with external organisation and initiatives: Pro-Bio interacts with external organisations and holds joint events or will seek assistance on behalf of its members. Examples of this include involvement with the new EU Framework 6 programme, a joint conference with BioWise and the Link Applied Biocatalysis Programme, discussions with the Regional Development Agencies to ensure better transfer of information between the two groups.

Company Specific activities

As a member of Pro-Bio Faraday, all companies are visited by a technology translator. During this visit key drivers for the company are identified, and potential solutions and actions discussed. An individual report is prepared with the actions required to assist the company in developing its activities for maximising the benefits from biocatalysis. Typical actions identified include, assistance with identifying potential grants and funds for demonstration projects, specific market information, advice on training opportunities and financial assistance towards training. Pro-Bio Faraday can also identify appropriate experts if a company have a specific area to be addressed. These experts will perform the technology translation visit on behalf of Pro-Bio and so provide a rapid start for new initiatives.

CPD: Never stop learning (Institute of Biology)

It has always been vital to demonstrate to current and future employers that you are staying at the top of your field. It may one day become a legal requirement.

In todayís demanding society, which expects high standards and accountability from all, it is particularly important to stay up to date. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a useful tool for achieving and demonstrating such ability and competence.

CPD can be defined as ëthe process through which an individual maintains and extends the knowledge and skills necessary for life long professional competenceí.

As the professional body for biologists, the Institute of Biology recognises that a diverse range of knowledge, skills and attributes are required by bioscientists working in numerous and varied professions. It has developed a framework for a CPD scheme, based on a learning cycle of ëthink, plan, do, reviewí. Individuals take charge of their own learning and will establish CPD objectives relevant to their needs by considering their present situation and identifying goals.

Through its structured and unstructured elements it will assist members in:

  • acquiring new skills, broadening contexts in which competencies are held
  • putting into good practice the skills and knowledge relevant to their career, aiding career progression and maximising opportunities
  • maintaining employment marketability

Individuals keep a simple record of activities undertaken.

To find out more, or to participate in the pilot scheme from January 2003, please email

Plan for Issue 17

Biotech LINK newsletter (February)

Cover picture: to be decided


  • Genetic Knowledge Park (Calvin Finn / Sue Ellison)
  • Measurement for Biotechnology – (to invite comment for scoping of the second programme in 2004. (MfB Hub / Sue Ellison)
  • Continuing Professional Development (Institute of Biology – received from Sue)
  • Analytical. Biotechnology projects exploitation news? (Tony Atkinson or Roy Smither – requested)
  • Beacon report (Sue Ellison)
  • Functional Genomics Programme (Dr Annette Martin, ESF Functional Genomics Administrator, The Babraham Institute


Tti Technology Transfer takes over from the TCD (item)


STEP is the UKís leading provider of project-based work-placements. We enable motivated students to work together with small and medium-sized companies and community organisations in order to solve business problems, develop invaluable personal and technical skills and forge successful careers.

Update on Bioremediation since the Launch in 2001 (Jim Philp)

Update on Applied Genomics (Celia Caulcott)

Other news:


At least 1 from Bioremediation (Action Jim Philp)

Applied Genomics project previews from Arrow and Renovo Ltd (Action Celia Caulcott)


Report on “Effecting change – Biocatalysis for the 21st Century”: Roger Cripps

The Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership: Dave Gardner

Interview on Applied Biocatalysis project exploitation: Wolfgang Skibar, C-Tech Innovation Ltd.