Three of the United States’ most prominent biomedical science leaders have been tapped by the government of Luxembourg for an unprecedented international collaboration to establish a bioscience center of excellence in the heart of the European Union.
The government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has announced an ambitious plan to increase the pace of innovation based on cutting-edge research in the areas of molecular biology, systems biology and personalized medicine. The initiative will include formation of a centralized biobank/tissue repository, two major projects to further research in the field of molecular biology, which is the cornerstone of personalized medicine, and a project to demonstrate the effectiveness of new diagnostics tests for earlier detection and treatment of lung cancer.
The U.S. organizations involved in the collaboration are: The Partnership for Personalized Medicine (PPM) led by Dr. Leland H. Hartwell, director, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 and president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington; The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), also in Seattle, led by Dr. Leroy Hood, president of ISB and co-founder of U.S.-based Amgen Inc.; and Arizona’s Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), led by Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and scientific director of TGen and former scientific director at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
The announcement was made jointly by three branches of Luxembourg’s government, the Ministry of the Economy and Foreign Trade, the Ministry for Culture, Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Health. The Luxembourg government is investing $200 million in the initiative, with the hope that ultimately it will improve the health of its own people by increasing the ability to administer the right drug to the right patient at the right time and in the right dose. In addition, it seeks to accelerate the global pace and integration of biomedical research, education and commercial development around the world.
The public-private initiative is expected to serve as a model for other international collaborations among partners looking to not only share research and development costs but also to gain access to each other’s information, networks and markets. The Luxembourg collaboration was developed and negotiated in consultation with the global professional services organization, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and is built on an integrated approach that links research, education, healthcare and the economy.
The collaboration consists of three interrelated research initiatives that build on each other.
Build the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL)
Led by TGen, Luxembourg will launch the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg, which has the promise of becoming a premier European hub for advanced biobanking, biotechnology and biomedical informatics.
Biobanks are invaluable in bridging the gap between the pace of scientific and technological advancement and translation to clinical benefit. Most existing European and U.S. biobanks focus on simple collection and redistribution of specimens to scientists and educators. The IBBL will implement uniform standards for collection, storage and redistribution of an anticipated full range of tissue samples (e.g. blood, serum and tumor tissue). However, the added value of this next-generation biobank will be the detailed, centralized, molecular-based characterization of biospecimens, which over time (and ultimately linked to detailed clinical information) will lead to amassing an extensive database of medically relevant information.
The project will unite and leverage expertise in biology, pathology, informatics and information technology infrastructure, laboratory operations, transportation, legal matters and ethics.
Accessible to European and international colleagues, IBBL will maintain its collection of tissues in a research environment that will seek collaborations broadly within the wider research community. As such, the IBBL will serve as a centralized resource for sharing and comparing research results through a robust, scalable and secure bioinformatics system that supports the collection, processing, storage, annotation and distribution of biospecimens and data.
TGen’s principal role working with Luxembourg scientists and physicians, will be to jointly develop and implement the next generation of molecular medicine through the development of the information architecture and technology implementation.
Create the Center for Systems Biology Luxembourg (CSBL)
The Institute for Systems Biology will collaborate with the University of Luxembourg to create the Center for Systems Biology Luxembourg. The Center will participate with ISB on two basic research projects designed to provide greater insight into the identification of disease and to enable more effective treatments:
ISB Research Project 1: The first project will include completion of a personalized human genome sequencing map on a minimum of one hundred subjects and development of new methods for understanding the role of genetic variations in disease, leading to new insights into diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
ISB Research Project 2: The second project is development of integrated systems proteomics, RNA and cell analysis methodology and tools based on ISB