Eagles – European action in global life sciences

Publiceret Juli 2003

Society needs to find ways of coping with the consequences of increasing population, food shortages, major diseases and deterioration of the environment that are afflicting many developing countries.  Arable land is disappearing due to reconfiguration of climatic patterns, droughts, flooding, and expanding deserts. Poverty is increasing in regions that do not have the resources and the technology to cope with changes in the environment. Transmissible diseases, malnutrition and pollution as well as changes in life styles are threatening human health.

Life sciences and biotechnology hold the promise of contributing to meeting some of the fundamental needs for more food and better health facing the developing world. Thus, the United Nations Development Programme, in its 2001 Human Development Report, highlights this potential. A growing number of developing countries are now pursuing biotechnologies, and some emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico have initiated ambitious national biotechnology development programmes. The resulting products and services will be increasingly traded on global markets. However, there is a great variation between countries and regions in their capacities and requirements to regulate and apply these new developments.

New capabilities should help developing countries reconcile yield increases, sustainable use of natural resources and economic efficiency with social acceptability. Potential applications must be adequately researched and assessed, taking full account of both the environmental safety issues and the needs expressed by the populations concerned to reduce poverty and strengthen food security and nutritional quality, and to develop sustainable solutions for growth with less waste.

Europe's responsibilities towards the developing world

Europe needs to embrace biotechnology in a wider international context and to respond with responsible and proactive policies at the global level for the strong reason that European decisions regarding life sciences and biotechnology have important consequences on developing countries.

Whilst not compromising food and environmental safety requirements and consumer information policies, Europe should not only provide technical assistance and capacity building but also ensure that its policies do not prevent developing countries from harvesting desired benefits or hinder them from developing life sciences and biotechnology at their own wish and pace.

Europe must therefore integrate the international dimension into all relevant policies, and develop an international agenda, based on fundamental values and long-term objectives, to actively promote balanced and responsible policies globally and in particular towards the developing world.

As a major player in life sciences and holding influential positions in international deliberations, Europe has a responsibility to help the developing world deal with the risks, challenges and opportunities of these technologies, and to facilitate the safe and efficient development and use of life sciences and biotechnology in developing countries.

Challenges of the life sciences

Thus, a great humanitarian challenge for the life sciences lies in illness, starvation and environmental degradation faced by hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world who suffer from poor health and nutrition while their environment is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Many life scientists believe that European life sciences could make a much greater contribution to solving these problems and feel they have a personal responsibility to help. But what can be done and how?

European Action in Global Life Sciences (EAGLES) intends to address these questions. EAGLES is an initiative of the European Federation of Biotechnology (www.efbweb.org) and was developed in consultation with services of the European Commission and with members of the European Group on Life Sciences, a high-level advisory group to the EC Commissioner on Research, as well as with concerned scientists from several continents. The objectives of EAGLES match closely the implementation of the European Commission's Strategy Plan for Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Actions 25-28, which emphasize Europe's responsibilities towards the developing world.

EAGLES wishes to design and implement projects to be carried out mostly by life scientists from developing countries that will stimulate and facilitate as well as help to fund activities for the European life sciences to respond to the needs of developing countries.

Another purpose of EAGLES is to increase public awareness in Europe of the needs for responsible applications of the life sciences in developing countries and, through public and political understanding, to guide the EU on how best to fund relevant and effective activities. The authority of EAGLES and its ability to make an impression on politicians, opinion makers and the media in Europe will rest on the eminence and reputation of its members.

As a specific activity, EAGLES wants, when appropriate funding is available, to support young scientists from developing countries who are engaged in endeavours to improve the economic, social or environmental conditions in their countries by safe applications of biotechnology for better health, agriculture or environment. As ?EAGLES Ambassadors?, addressing politicians, civil servants and the media, these young people could well have an important impact on the European focus and priorities in life sciences.

EAGLES and EU strategy for life sciences and the developing world

Activities suggested by EAGLES will help to implement a number of Actions under the EU Strategy for Life Sciences and in particular:

Action 25, the EC should support the establishment of effective research partnerships between public and private research organizations in developing countries and in the EU, and the adequate capacity and infrastructure for developing countries to enter into such partnerships.

Action 28, the EC should support the safe and effective use of modern biotechnologies in developing countries, based on their autonomous choice and on their national development strategies as well as helping to ensure that international research on social, economical and environmental impacts are effectively adapted to take into account conditions prevailing in developing countries and that international regulatory requirements remain manageable by developing countries, so as not to impede their trade and production prospects.

What next?

To achieve these ambitious goals, EAGLES proposes first to establish a platform for outstanding scientists in the life sciences and biotechnology with the intention to give voice in Europe and beyond to the needs and competences of these countries. EAGLES should then help to apply European expertise for the benefit of the poor and needy, for better health, for sustainable developments, and for more growth with less waste. Finally, EAGLES hopes to advise the European Commission on strengthening the global responsibilities of EU programmes in education, research, innovation, application and implementation, particularly in relation to agriculture and food, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, biodiversity and genetic resources, environment and sustainable development as well as the safe and responsible use of biotechnology in developing countries.

EAGLES Events

There are preliminary plans to arrange for EAGLES meetings in Beijing, October 2003, in conjunction with the meeting of The Third World Academy and in the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, April 2004, in conjunction with BioVision.

EAGLES Management

EAGLES is managed by a chairmanship (Drs. Serageldin, Yang and McConnell, see below) supported by a Consortium of distinguished scientists from five continents and a secretariat provided by EFB (see below). An application has recently been submitted to the European Commission for funding as a Special Support Action.

EAGLES Forum

An EAGLES Forum has recently been established. This Forum is open to concerned scientists who feel that they may contribute to EAGLES in meeting its objectives. To register please contact David McConnell or the EAGLES Secretariat.

EAGLES Coordinator

Professor David McConnell, Dept of Genetics; Smurfit Institute of Genetics; Trinity College, IRL-Dublin 2, Tel. +353 1 6081140; Fax. +353 1 6714968;  David.McConnell@tcd.ie

EAGLES Secretariat

David Bennett; Camille Burel, EFB Delft Regional Branch Office; Oude delft 60; NL-2611CD Delft Tel: +31 15 212 78 00; Fax: +31 15 212 71 11, David.Bennett@efbpublic.org; Camille.Burel@efbpublic.org

EAGLES Consortium

  • Prof. Ismail Serageldin, Chairman EAGLES (Director, Library of Alexandria, Egypt)
  • Prof David McConnell (Co-ordinator), Co-Vice Chairman EAGLES (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
  • Dr. Huanming Yang, Co-Vice Chairman EAGLES (Director, Beijing Genomics Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)
  • Prof Paulo Arruda (Universidade Estadual de Campinas and Alellyx Applied Genomics, Brazil)
  • Dr. David Bennett (European Federation of Biotechnology Task Group Secretary, The Netherlands)
  • Prof. Julio Celis (FEBS Secretary General and Institute of Cancer Biology and Danish Centre for Human Genome Research, Denmark)
  • Dr. Werner Christie (World Health Connections, Norway)
  • Prof.  Brian Clark (IUBMB President and Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Prof. Paddy Cunningham (Trinity College Dublin and European Group on Life Sciences, Ireland)
  • Prof Boerge Diderichsen (EFB President and Novo Nordisk, Denmark)
  • Willy de Greef (recently Head, Regulatory Affairs & Government Affairs, Syngenta, Belgium)
  • Sir Brian Heap (Master, St Edmund's College, Cambridge and Royal Society, UK)
  • Prof. Luis Herrera-Estrella, (Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, Irapuato, Mexico)
  • Dr. Bin Liu (Head, Research & Collaborations, Genomics & Bioinformatics Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)
  • Prof. Marc van Montagu (Gent University and European Group on Life Sciences, Belgium)
  • Prof. Yufa Peng (Center for Biosafety Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China)
  • Prof. Jennifer Thomson (University of Capetown, South Africa)
  • Dr. Jorge Huete Perez (Centro de Biologia Molecular, Universidad Centroamericana, Nicaragua)
  • Dr. Florence Wambugu (Executive Director, Harvest Biotech Foundation International, Kenya)
  • Prof. Tilahun Yilma, (Ethiopia, currently School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, US)
EFB – European Federation of Biotechnology
European Federation of Biotechnology (www.efbweb.org) is expanding quickly, currently with 50-100 new members per month.
You may benefit from joining this dynamic forum of 3100+ biotechnologists representing academia as well as industry that on scientific grounds deal with almost any scientific and applied aspect of biotechnology. On behalf of the European Commission, EFB is also facilitating interactions in biotechnology between Europe and China.

Please see www.efbinternational.org

Look for personal (free) and institutional membership at http://www.efbweb.org/members/joinus.htm