Northern highlights

More than 170 representatives of EMBL and its four Nordic partnerships attending the annual meeting in September.
More than 170 representatives of EMBL and its four Nordic network partners attending the 6th annual meeting in September. PHOTO: DANDRITE

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EMBL’s remote partnerships with national institutes in the member states are ‘remote’ only in name: these collaborations aim to belie borders, unifying scientists and complementary science to spur transfer of research excellence and know-how in training, governance and recruitment. Recent activities in the Nordic countries demonstrate how effective these networks have become.

Partnership renewal

Following more than a decade of fruitful collaboration and exchange, EMBL’s partnership with the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology in Norway has been renewed for a further 10 years. The Sars Centre, recently integrated into the University of Bergen, has been a partner of EMBL since 2003. Through scientific exchange, joint meetings and mutual access to facilities and services, the partnership unites the institutes’ complementary strengths and interests, stimulating the assembly of a scientific community of critical mass.

EMBL’s guidance has helped Sars maintain its high scientific ambitions and a focus on basic research

Named for two renowned 19th century marine biologists from Bergen, Michael and Georg Ossian Sars, the Sars Centre is composed of eight research groups focused on comparative molecular biology of marine animals, mostly invertebrates. Situated on the Norwegian coast, the Centre has access to state-of-the-art marine biology facilities, including field research stations and research vessels. “EMBL’s guidance has helped Sars maintain its high scientific ambitions and a focus on basic research,” says Daniel Chourrout, Sars Centre Director.

Inspiration in Aarhus

Over three sunny days in early-September, new and established researchers from EMBL and its four Nordic partners convened at Aarhus University in Denmark for the annual meeting of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine. Hosted by the network’s Danish node, DANDRITE, 170 participants gathered in the campus setting, with a half-day detour to the auditorium of the inspiring Moesgaard Museum of human evolution and culture.

A host of knowledge

DANDRITE, the newest addition to the Nordic partnership, hosted the 2015 annual network meeting of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine. Established in 2013, DANDRITE is an interdisciplinary research centre performing basic and translational research in the field of neuroscience. The node is jointly funded by Aarhus University and the Lundbeck Foundation, one of the largest private contributors to natural science research in Denmark. The Foundation funds DANDRITE in the context of supporting and developing biomedical research of the highest quality with strong links to Denmark. Speaking at an EMBL alumni event earlier the same week, Lundbeck Foundation Director of Research Anne-Marie Engel described DANDRITE as “a successful example of private-public partnership: a win-win situation,” and evidence that “much can be gained from collaboration between high-quality and ambitious entities working together in a defined network, such as that provided by EMBL.”

Activities included a dedicated programme for young investigators, and a focus on presentations of new group leaders as well as short topical talks on recently published and upcoming papers. Alongside keynote lectures by EMBL group leaders Jan Ellenberg and Carsten Sachse, a highlight was the inaugural Science&Art contest, which welcomed contributions from all locations. A scientific speed dating session further facilitated connections and collaboration.

Presenting an update on activities and achievements at EMBL, Director General Iain Mattaj expressed pride in the Partnership’s growing critical mass and ever-increasing engagement of young scientists. He spoke enthusiastically of the joint recruitment campaign that resulted in three new group leaders, as well as welcoming the new director of the Finnish node (Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM), Jaakko Kaprio.

This meeting clearly showed how biology and molecular medicine are transforming towards quantitative sciences

In his closing remarks, Director of DANDRITE Poul Nissen, summarised: “This meeting clearly showed how biology and molecular medicine are transforming towards quantitative sciences. Our guest speakers – Ellenberg, Sachse, Lewin – and the many talks from our own laboratories all had that theme in common: we need numbers on how molecules interact in time and space, not just red-and-green-yields-yellow images.”

EMBL partnership conference

Next year, the Nordic Partnership annual meeting will incorporated into a dedicated conference for EMBL’s partner institutes: Perspectives in Translational Medicine, held 6–8 June 2016 at EMBL Heidelberg. Bringing together EMBL and its partners operating in the field of molecular medicine, the event aims to expand research networks and facilitate new collaborations. Among the confirmed speakers is 2015 Breakthrough Prize-winner, Emmanuelle Charpentier.

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