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Friday, July 25, 2008

Science in Europe in June, 08-or what's wrong with Poland?

In this edition, few very cool scientific projects that are going to change scientific Europe. Or at least, influence it, if we take into account the speed of European bureaucracy :)
  • EU 'biobank' to help boost drug discovery
  • EU hopes for Community patent under French Presidency
  • Decision on EIT seat postponed
  • Retailers told to help consumers eat 'green'
In any case, my comments are below and I suggest you read the first article as it's very interesting.

EU 'biobank' to help boost drug discovery

30 May 2008

The pan-EU biobanking initiative hopes to solve a number of ethical and legal issues connected with the storage of DNA and other human samples in order to boost new drug discovery, personalised medicines and therapies.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRIexternal ) published, in October 2006, its first road map for new European research infrastructures. It identified 35 large-scale infrastructure projects, which a sufficient number of member states were ready to support (see EurActiv 19/10/06).

The pan-European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRIexternal ) is one of the projects identified by the EU as a future large-scale European research infrastructure. A seminar held on 28 May in the European Parliament took stock of the progress made so far and discussed future challenges for completing BBMRI.

Biobanks are collections of biological material, such as DNA, tissue, cells, blood or other bodily fluids. They also include the medical, environmental and lifestyle data linked with each sample.

Such a major infrastructure could allow the identification of disease genes and help understand relationships between genes, the environment, lifestyle and diseases. Crucially, it could also allow people to realise their potential to develop specific diseases, opening the door to personalised prevention programmes and treatments.

Biobanks are considered as a key resource in the study of the molecular basis of disease subtypes, the identification of new targets for therapy and speeding up drug discovery and development. They are also expected to help develop more precise diagnostic tools and study the environmental and genetic factors causing disease.

Currently, over 50 partnersPdf external and around 150 associated partnersPdf external are taking part in the BBMRI project.

Pharmaceutical or other medical companies, who also have their own collections of samples, are also waiting for the infrastructure to be put in place in order to guarantee access to large collections of well-characterised samples, a pre-requisite for the speedy development of new drugs and personalised medicine.

However, before establishing a true pan-European biobank, major ethical and legal questions need to be overcome and a legal framework needs to be found. The privacy and confidentiality of the donors, the use of genetic technologies, commercialisation of genetic products and intellectual property rights are also issues to be dealt with before the final structure can start working. source

My comment: Precisely my point-we have problem with storing out data in electronic variant, what's left for storing our DNA. Of course, in Europe the problem of health insurances is not so vital, but still, there are other types of insurances. Will they let you have a life insurance if they know you're likely to have cancer? I disagree that your employer should know your health condition if it's not directly related to your work, so I'm not sure how public that data-base should be, or how personal. For me, the most important thing is that it will be anonymous. That's fairly enough to ensure everything is fine.

EU hopes for Community patent under French Presidency

30 May 2008

Talks on setting up a European patent system made good progress at the meeting of EU industry ministers yesterday (29 May), but sensitive translation arrangements remain the main obstacle, the Slovenian EU Presidency said after the meeting.

Although work at technical level has not been completed yet, several proposals are on the table now, Slovenian Economy Minister Andrej Vijzak said.

The main stumbling block in the negotiations on a Community patent and a related litigation system, which have been going on for over a decade now, is the issue of translation arrangements.

The Slovenian Presidency has proposed two options. One foresees a 'flexible patent', which would allow the owner to decide in which country the claim would be protected, while the second option calls for translation into all official EU languages by an automated computer system. The latter is the one favoured by a majority of member states.

The main difference between the options is that that in the latter, translation had no legal status, contrary to the first one.

Regarding the Community patent, the Presidency particularly highlighted the cost aspect, saying that a cost-effective patent system had particular benefits to SMEs.

In parallel to the patent talks, ministers also took note of the progress of the 'Better Regulation' initiative (see EurActiv Links Dossier), agreeing that further cutting red tape was vital to Europe's competitiveness. In 2007, the bloc had agreed to cut the administrative burden by 25% by 2012. source

My comment: On this, I have a lot to say. Patents are extremely important for the development of the R&D sphere. In order for a scientist to be motivated to work on industry-oriented stuff, he or she must be sure there is a law that would protect her or his intellectual rights.
And in Europe that's hard-no one is counseling you about your rights and options, nobody cares what exactly you're doing and even worst-very few lawyers actually know what could be done in order for all the sides to profit. And that's a major problem.
Now, my view is such. For me, translating every application on 27 languages is costly and unnecessary. For me the applications should be submitted on the natural language of the applicant and on English or French. The idea is that he or she should make the translation so that the translation is correct. From that point, the application should be considered and a commission should be appointed. The applications should be translated only to the working language of that commission. And if the patent is granted, it could be translated on the rest 25 languages on tax-payers money. If not, it can stay in those languages that were already used. Simple and cheap.

Decision on EIT seat postponed

2 June 2008

Following Poland's veto of the otherwise unanimously-backed Budapest as the seat for the European Innovation and Technology Institute (EIT), the final decision will now be taken by research ministers at an Intergovernmental Conference on 18 June.

It had been expected that a unanimous agreement on the seat of the EIT would be reached by ministers during an informal dinner on 29 May and formally adopted at an Intergovernmental Conference the following day. However, Poland refused to back the candidacy of Budapest, Hungary, as the host of the new high-tech innovation institute, despite approval from the 26 other member states.

According to Council sources, the real reason behind the veto is that Polish minister did not have the mandate to "accept the failure" and is in fact more linked to Poland's internal politics than anything else. Indeed, the mayor and city of Wroclaw are very influential vis-à-vis the government and the city had been lobbying long and hard to host the EIT.

Wroclaw also thought that getting to host the EIT would compensate for the fact that the city recently lost the race to host the 2012 International Exhibition (EXPO 2012external ), which will take place in South Korea, a Council source told EurActiv.

Research ministers have agreed to return to Brussels on 18 June to take the final decision during an Intergovernmental Conference. The Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology Mojca Kucler Dolinar insisted that "there is consensus on selection criteria" of the seat.

The future host of the EIT seat will namely be one of the new member states "which doesn't have already a site or an EU agency," she specified. Only one of the five candidates, Budapest, fits these conditions. Poland already hosts Frontexexternal , the EU border security agency, and the three others, Sant Cugat del Valles near Barcelona, Vienna-Bratislava and Jena (Germany) are not new member states.source

My comment: Again, why I hate Poland? Oh, yeah, because it's the most egoistic and lost country in Europe...Yeah...

Retailers told to help consumers eat 'green'

5 June 2008

As the UK government prepares the first ever standard on the carbon footprint of food products, consumers and policymakers are calling on retailers to help citizens make more sustainable food choices.

The production, packaging and transport of food can be very energy intensive, resulting in carbon emissions and thus contributing to global warming.

According to a Commission report on environmental impact of products (EIPROPdf external ), published in 2006, food and drink are responsible for between 20 and 30% of the environmental impact of consumption and much of this is said to be due to meat and dairy products.

Results of a recent Japanese studyexternal on the 'life-cycle' of a standard beef cow, including feed production and transport, animal management and the biological activity of the animal, showed that eating one kilogram of beef produces more greenhouse gas emissions than driving for three hours while leaving the lights on at home.

The European Commission's annual Green Week event dedicated a session to sustainable eating on 4 June. The aim was to highlight how consumers, policymakers, retailers and civil society can contribute to a better environment by adopting sustainable food consumption habits.

The session particularly highlighted UK-based research and initiatives on the subject. Bronwen Jones from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK is currently involved in developing a way to measure different food products' carbon content.

The first standard should be ready this autumn and could potentially lead the way towards a consumer label indicating the carbon footprint of each product. This includes transport emissions or the energy and water needed to produce the products.


Bronwen Jones of Defra's Food Chain Programme. Said that Defra research has shown that "benefits of locally produced food are widely over-claimed" and that the main cost of transporting food results from "road accidents and congestion".

Therefore, she argued, tomatoes imported to the UK from Spain can be lower carbon than tomatoes produced in Britain, because tomatoe production at northern latitudes is more energy intensive. However, "it is not that clear-cut if we take into account the water use and stress," she acknowledged.

But she added that "you should not assume that the closer a produce comes from, the more sustainable it is," saying the real waste story related to food is the food wasted. "We throw away about a third of the food we buy," she said, describing throwing away meat and dairy products as "the ultimate sin".


My comment:That's more an interesting sidenote. It was hight time to see some initiative on this end. I hope it's successful.

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