11 Jun 2008   |   News

Luxembourg looks to US to build up its biomedical research

Luxembourg is to invest €140 million over five years in a bid to become a centre of excellence in molecular medicine, partnering with three leading US institutions to help achieve the aim.

Luxembourg is to invest €140 million over five years in a bid to become a centre of excellence in molecular medicine, partnering with three leading US institutions to help achieve the aim.

At the same time the country's technology investment body, Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI), has set up a health technologies facility to co-finance start-ups in the field.

The initiative centres on strategic partnerships with the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, led by Jeffrey Trent, the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, led by Leroy Hood and the Partnership for Personalized Medicine led by Leland H. Hartwell. The programme also involves Luxembourg’s three Public Research Centres, Santé, Henri Tudor and Gabriel Lippmann, and the University of Luxembourg.

The projects will focus on developing molecular diagnosis as a cornerstone of personalised medicine, covering prevention, targeted screening, early diagnosis and treatment with drugs based on the individual’s genetic and biological make-up. Ultimately, this is expected to result in the ability to administer the right drug to the right patient, at the right time and in the right dose.

Overall, the programme fits into the government’s 2004 programme, whose main priorities were to set up centres of scientific and technological excellence, to diversify Luxembourg’s economy by promoting research activities, particularly in biotechnology.

The centrepiece of the project is the creation of a Luxembourg biobank, in partnership with the Translational Genomics Research Institute, under the name the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg . This will initially focus its efforts on collecting and analysing biological samples and the related data for oncology research in lung and colon cancers. The biobank’s efforts will be underpinned by leading biotechnology and bioinformatics capabilities.

The biobank, to be founded by the three Public Research Centres and the University will ultimately promote and facilitate national and international research projects, including the research projects of Hartwell and Hood, to advance translational research

The second part of the agreement involves a project between the Institute for Systems Biology and the University of Luxembourg to set up the Centre for Systems Biology Luxembourg over the next five years.

The first phase of this research project deals with genome sequencing, particularly the study of genetic systems, the second will work on molecular fingerprinting of the body’s main organs using blood biomarkers. The project also contains a major technological component focused on the development and integration of tools used in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics.

The third element of the initiative is a pilot project with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, an initiative launched in Phoenix in 2007 by two philanthropic foundations and spearheaded by Hartwell, who is 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. Its goal is to develop molecular diagnostics for specific diseases. This centres on the selection and validation of biomarkers to more effectively diagnose and manage disease, from early detection through therapeutic follow-up. The Luxembourg project will focus its efforts on lung cancer.


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