Meeting with the Dean of Life Sciences EPFL

Today Jacques and I had a meeting with Prof. Didier Trono, the Dean of the School of Life Sciences at the EPFL. Harald Hirling, the deputy dean was also present. Prof. Trono was interested in the current setup of SyBIT and explained how the EPFL is involved. He has brought up two very relevant topics in our context:

  1. Long-term planning and funding
  2. Education

Long-term Funding

In terms of long-term outlook, SyBIT needs to address together with all partners how the services we are building for the community will become sustained through other channels. Prof. Trono thinks that we need to push also on the level of the SNF to think of infrastructure funding for Life Sciences in the future. There will be a growing need for this kind of infrastructure and its support and it is necessary to understand what exactly should be done.

In order to have something in place in 2016 when hopefully the second stage of SystemsX.ch is done, we need to start now to start this discussion. He suggests that we (SyBIT) write a short statement on what is there today, what is missing, and what will be needed in the future. This can be than extended by the SEB/BoD to a higher-level position towards the political bodies.

Jacques and I agreed that we will draft such a document in the SyBIT Coordination Team.

Education

Prof. Trono is very well informed about how hard it was for us to find good people for our tasks in SyBIT. He suggested to set up a curriculum for ‘Life Science Analysts’ – ie. people with strong software engineering and/or bioinformatics skills but who are interested in the scientific topics in order to support the research community. This is clearly not an education for those pursuing an academic career but rather a career in industry. He believes that the industry is very much in need of such people (I agree) and that in training them we would not only get the support from the large Pharma companies like Nestle and Novartis but we would also have the necessary number fo people to provide the support SyBIT is building up. Since this would be a strong education activity, it would be sustainable by the universities in the long term. A coordinated curriculum accross all Swiss universities would be perfect, with specialized courses to be taken accross the country.

Jacques pointed out that in addition also the scientists themselves need training so that they can actually properly use the tools and services that are developed by us.

We (SyBIT) will also push for this, Prof. Trono will initiate a plan at the EPFL and I will go around talking to other Deans to address this.

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Discussion with FGCZ

I was at the FGCZ on Friday the 4th to discuss their future involvement in SyBIT. It was an open discussion with a very positive outcome. Present were Ralph Schlapback (the head of FGCZ), Hubert Rehrauer, Christian Panse and Can Turker. I was convinced that it makes perfect sense to place one more person with the FGCZ, actively integrating their work into the SyBIT ‘toolbox’. The final discussion and decision about this will be done within the Coordination Team.

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