In seeking out keys to unlock the secrets of the universe, many automatically turn their thoughts towards the heavens. But there are in fact an increasing number of scientific enigmas closer to home that also have great relevance to the way we live and function in the world around us. The Research Council of Norway is working actively to unravel the secrets in one such essential area – functional genomics.
As a direct result of the mapping of genetic material in humans as well as in certain animals, plants and microorganisms, a new field of scientific inquiry has developed – functional genomic research. By studying tens of thousands of genes and proteins simultaneously, modern functional genomic technology forges a path into the heart of this complex universe, facilitating major advances in uncovering the functions of individual genes and proteins and the effect that they have upon health and disease.
One major project that the Research Council of Norway is currently undertaking relates directly to this new area of research. The FUGE (Functional Genomics in Norway) programme combines marine, medical and basic biotechnology at its core, with environmental science and ethics also representing important aspects of the project. In addition, the national “Centres of Excellence” programme is geared to have a positive impact on Norway’s role in the international biotechnology industry.
Cod and zebrafish one day after hatching. Aquaculture is one of the many areas in which the Research Council of Norway’s FUGE programme is making its mark. © Thomas Becker, Sars International Centre for Molecular Marine Biology
FUGE’s role in the national research arena is to communicate genomic-related information to relevant institutions, organizations and individuals, while simultaneously promoting the possibilities for individuals or groups to apply for funding for related scientific projects. The Norwegian government has provided funding for the FUGE programme until 2012, as it is considered extremely important to many sectors, both public and private.
Historically, the fishing industry has played a huge role in Norway’s economy and culture, and it is only natural that one FUGE goal is to become the leader in the world of genomics related to aquaculture. In this as well as other areas, FUGE and the Research Council of Norway are working side-by-side with the university sector in order to focus on national sharing of technology and resources.
What’s In It for Everyone
Functional genomic research and the knowledge obtained not only provides mankind with a deeper knowledge of living organisms, but lays the foundation for the development of new products and production methods and the establishment of spin-off companies, founded and developed with their roots in the research community.
FUGE is well on its way to a long-term goal of solidifying national and regional cooperative models – communication that will contribute to the ability of the business sector to take advantage of the gains made by researchers. At the same time, FUGE and the Research Council of Norway are establishing contact with national and international investors in order to make them aware of the commercial possibilities that lie in the wake of discoveries made in the Norwegian research environment. By the end of 2005, genomic efforts in the country will be fully integrated into the international research efforts.
So, the next time someone speaks of unlocking the secrets of the universe, inform them of the many keys originating and being developed in Norway.