US-EC Biotech Task Force keys on research, collaboration

ARLINGTON, Va. -- On topics ranging from mutant mice for biomedicine to pathogens without passports, the U.S.-European Commission (EC) Task Force on Biotechnology Research this week heard the latest on research bridging the Atlantic.

At the meetings, held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) yesterday and Wednesday, a new potential for trans-Atlantic scientific collaboration arose--"transkingdom" biology, the comparative molecular analysis of diverse organisms from the microbial, plant and animal kingdoms.

As biologists discover increasing commonalities within the molecular machinery of diverse life forms, research results from divergent disciplines are converging with a new, broader relevance.

"Now," said Martha Steinbock, a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research service on the 24-member task force, "because of genomics, botanists, zoologists, microbiologists and others have a common language. That insight has opened up an entirely new field of research that could have profound impacts."

The task force has met annually since 1990. It is composed of biotechnology representatives of the EC, which is the executive branch of the European Union, and participants from U.S. federal agencies, including NSF, National Institutes of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, the State Department and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

NSF Director Rita Colwell told the group, "In an era of international uncertainty and frequent global misunderstanding, scientific activity offers--more than ever--the potential to create ties of mutual benefit. It is worth reminding ourselves that new ideas and new discoveries emerge regularly around the world."

International collaboration, she said, was of "critical importance" because of the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science, the value of exchanging research results and diverse perspectives, and the "potential t

Contact: Sean Kearns
National Science Foundation

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