Statement in response to Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) £319M investment announcement

11 April 2017

The Earlham Institute welcomes the BBSRCs announcement of its £319M investment into strategically funded institutes. Established in 2009 and with a focus on understanding biological systems through the analysis and integration of complex and diverse datasets, the Earlham Institute has undertaken diverse projects covering the breadth of life on earth that are helping us to improve human, animal and plant health, while aiding in researching healthier living systems.

Neil Hall, Director of Earlham Institute said ‘This strategic funding is vitally important to Earlham Institute. We work at the interface of biology, maths and computer science and strategic funding from BBSRC enables us to hire and retain some of the brightest young scientists with interdisciplinary skills. These skills are needed to carry out important foundational research, enabling the institute to grow this relatively new area of bioscience. In addition, this funding also means that datasets, methodology and tools developed by EI will continue to underpin biological research in the UK and internationally. We will now align our operational plan to this new strategic investment. This strategic funding will help the Institute to continue its research into organisms that are of importance to agriculture, food security, biotechnology and health as delivered through the strategic programme ‘From Genomes to Food Security”.

Federica Di Palma, Director of Science, stated ‘’Our research program will take advantage of the latest technology in genomics and computer science to understand how living systems evolve and adapt to their environment. We will be working across kingdoms from plants and fish to microbes to address key areas of food production and food safety.”

This new funding will also support further collaboration between institutes, with the ‘Designing Future Wheat’ program seeing Earlham Institute working with the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, EMBL-EBI, and other UK universities to combine expertise on understanding this complex genome.

Sarah Cossey, Director of Operations at Earlham Institute said “Cutting-edge genomics and computational technologies, along with one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe, underpin the operations at Earlham Institute. The investment from BBSRC will support the delivery of national capabilities in genomics and single cell analysis, a plant and microbe DNA foundry, e-Infrastructure, and advanced training."

“BBSRC’s strategic funding investments in research, people and vital national capabilities at world leading bioscience institutes will deliver new knowledge and innovation and help realise the potential of a bio-based economy,” said Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive. “The positive impacts in food, agriculture, energy, materials and health will help drive economic growth and deliver benefits to society across the UK and beyond.”

Ends

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact:

Stuart Catchpole

Head of Business Development and Communications (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 813

stuart.catchpole@earlham.ac.uk

  • This is new BBSRC investment into Earlham Institute to the amount of £26.6M
  • The funding is confirmed until the end of this spending review period and then indicative, depending on BBSRC’s future allocations.

About our Core Strategic Programme

Understanding the complex functions of an organism and its interaction with the environment is a major challenge in biological research requiring multidisciplinary expertise and state of the art technologies. In the last two years, the EI has developed a research strategy with an ambitious vision to accelerate scientific progress through data driven biology approaches supported by innovative algorithm development and data management to deliver the greatest impact on the BBSRC’s strategic priorities. The EI brings together multidisciplinary expertise in biosciences, bioinformatics, high performance computing and statistics to understand the complex biological systems in relation to plants, animal and their interaction with the environment.

Our Core Strategic Programme focuses on delivering novel algorithm developments for the study of complex genomes, and the comprehensive analyses on the impact of diversity on traits and phenotypes in species of importance for food security.

Analysing and Interpreting Genomes important in food security focusing on the analysis and interpretation of genetic variation in complex genomes, including both algorithm developments for genome assemblies and identification of sequence variants, and the interpretation of these variants in the context of artificial (domestication) and natural selection that shaped the genomes of crops aquaculture species and foodborne pathogens.

Systems Genomics approaches to understand complex phenotypes. Key genome analyses will be integrated through a systems biology approach to characterise the impact of variation on gene regulation and the divergence of regulatory networks associated with specific traits. We will develop novel methods to accurately annotate complex genomes and to reconstruct interaction networks underlying traits and adaptations in species of importance for food security.

Data Science for Integrative Biology is fundamental to the success of the core strategic programme. Earlham Institute will specifically tackle challenges arising from managing large scale datasets and their associated metadata, improving existing algorithms to maximise their efficiency on state-of-the-art computing architectures, and the integration of heterogenous datasets generated thereby enabling and enhancing their interpretation.

About our National capabilities

The Earlham Institute operates four BBSRC-supported National Capabilities as funded through the Core Capability Grant. Our National Capability in Genomics, which has supplied high-throughput genomics services to a world-wide community of researchers, is now extended to the National Capability in Genomics and Single Cell Analysis. We are pleased to deliver a new National Capability in the Plant and Microbe DNA Foundry, a high-throughput facility for the production and characterisation of synthetic biology constructs, building upon the £1.9M investment from the BBSRC Synthetic Biology for Growth Programme. Recognising the unique capability of our HPC infrastructure, our new National Capability in e-Infrastructure has chosen four flagship projects to support community-driven approaches to the analysis and integration of genomics data. Finally, our Advanced Training National Capability, delivers tailored courses with a focus on computational biology and bioinformatics to help early-career researchers bridge the gap between bench and big data, utilising our expertise in course development and dedicated training suites.

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £6.45M in 2015/2016 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.

www.earlhaminstitute.ac.uk

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15 and is the leading funder of wheat research in the UK (over £100M investment on UK wheat research in the last 10 years). We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes