Business Plan — Executive summary

The modern life sciences are making big steps in analysing living organisms. This is fuelled by the development of powerful technologies, such as genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, imaging and many more, resulting in important new insight and a true data deluge. Despite these successes our understanding of how living systems function is still remarkably limited. Here, ‘understanding’ is defined as being able to correctly predict the functioning of systems after changing their components or their environment.

Systems biology is a branch of the life sciences that can create understanding through integrating multiple and diverse data sets in quantitative computational models. These models are able to predict the behaviour of biological systems based on experimental data about the interplay of molecules, cells and tissues in time and space. This level of understanding can make a huge impact on health, biotechnology and sustainability, whilst fuelling the bioeconomy. As such, national governments and the European Commission have recognised the importance of systems biology, investing considerably in the past decade. In ISBE European countries are joining forces in a research infrastructure for systems biology by building on national strengths to meet European needs.

Infrastructure for Systems Biology Europe (ISBE) is a knowledge-based research infrastructure that adds value to national and European investments by empowering European researchers across academia, clinics and industry to implement systems biology approaches. It will enable easy access to expertise, resources and training and offer hands-on support in building and using computational models based on model-compliant high quality data. To be effective, ISBE will take responsibility for the development and implementation of community standards to make data, models and tools re-usable over prolonged periods of time. This is essential for progress in the life sciences and, importantly, makes research more efficient and cost-effective.

ISBE’s offerings to the scientific community are based on surveys of the needs of different user communities and potential provider institutions in Europe. ISBE will consist of a collaborative and synergistic matrix of national systems biology centres with overlapping and complementary expertise, each centre being tightly linked to its national systems biology research community. Activities of the centres are coordinated and overseen at the European level by a central ISBE office, headed by an ISBE director and a supervisory board of stakeholders.

ISBE’s national centres will be financially supported directly by their national governments. For the central office, a membership fee is proposed related to the gross national product of a country. The European Research Infrastructure Consortia is considered as the legal base for ISBE.