Science for Life Laboratory
The Swedish national infrastructure SciLifeLab continues to expand. During 2013 SciLifeLab received a national assignment to provide technical platform service and know-how in molecular biosciences to all academic researchers in Sweden. In addition, SciLifeLab aims to strengthen the Swedish research community and reach out to industry, health-care and society.
SciLifeLab is a center for molecular biosciences with a focus on health and environmental research. It is a collaboration between four universities: Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University. The center consists of two nodes, located in Stockholm and Uppsala, respectively. Since July 1, 2013, SciLifeLab is a national resource within the field of life science research.
The SciLifeLab national center combines frontline technical expertise with deep knowledge of translational medicine and molecular bioscience. Researchers from all over Sweden can use the technologies and gain from the know-how at SciLifeLab. Most of our users represent academia, but there are also users from industry, healthcare and government agencies. SciLifeLab aims to create a strong research community around the national center through education and collaborative exchange, for example through SciLifeLab Fellows and Associated Fellows. We also organize meetings and venues where SciLifeLab researchers can meet stakeholders in the life science sector, for instance, healthcare, governmental agencies and companies to initiate collaborations.
National infrastructure delivers and expands
In 2013 SciLifeLab platforms provided service corresponding to 2235 projects to scientists from all major Swedish universities. Genomics and bioinformatics remain the largest platforms, but other platforms are expected to expand with time. To remain at the frontline of international research the platforms also perform technology development.
2013 saw the establishment of the clinical diagnostics platform aimed at providing genomic and proteomic analysis in collaboration with the health care system. This effort to translate molecular medicine into clinical practice, emphasizes a strong opportunity to make research utilizable in society and builds on a special strengths in Sweden based on the homogenous population structure, good clinical records and a society built on trust and cooperation.
The drug discovery and development platform offers novel opportunities to perform targeted and biologically informed drug discovery in academia, thereby complementing and collaborating with larger industrial efforts. We believe that these two new platforms will contribute to translating biomedical research into clinical practice and commercial applications.
A growing national life science community
The scientific community around SciLifeLab continues to expand. The number of researchers connected to SciLifeLab is currently well over a 1000 and increasing every year. These scientists form the core of the community.The community is open to scientists from all over Sweden who will benefit from the services of the national center, courses, knowledge transfer, collaborations and meetings. In 2013, SciLifeLab scientists published almost 450 articles, with a gratifying number in Nature, Science and other top journals.
The center attempts to reward talented young researchers at the beginning of their careers both by the Science and SciLifeLab Prize and by supporting recruitment of SciLifeLab Fellows and SciLifeLab Associated Fellows, aimed at giving outstanding young scientists the ability to develop within the SciLifeLab community. To inspire school children to become scientists SciLifeLab performs multiple types of educational outreach activities.
SciLifeLab offers courses and workshops on a broad scale to undergraduate students, graduate students, principal investigators and students from other advanced-level programs. These educational efforts are one of the key parts of our outreach activities, which also include collaborative projects, seminars, workshops and conferences. In 2014 >40 PhD courses were offered with ~25 of these focusing on bioinformatics and data analysis, highlighting the need for bioinformatics and computational biology in years to come.
Swedish success story
SciLifeLab has been described as a Swedish success story by the journal Nature. The editorial text answered a question from an earlier editorial article by the journal Science, “Is the sum bigger than the components?” with a firm yes. The Nature article focused on the internationally surprising trend that Sweden, in contrast to many other countries, makes great investments in life science infrastructure, and on ambitious research recruitment plans. The article highlighted the excellent career opportunities and the multidisciplinary strengths of the SciLifeLab environment, and also emphasized the potential in the joint venture for excellent collaborative Swedish science.
More information about SciLifeLab is available at
Young strategic recruits develop new techniques
Mats Nilsson focuses on development of molecular techniques to read out DNA, RNA and proteins. Carolina Wählby is an expert at developing new tools for image analysis. This year their labs teamed up to develop a new methodology for sequencing mRNA directly in situ on a tissue slide. This new technique will be essential for studying gene expression in individual cells in for example cancer tissue. The collaboration exemplifies the interdisciplinary research SciLifeLab does to push the boundaries of molecular medicine and resulted in a Nature Methods paper 2013.
Large-scale study sheds light on obesity genetics
A massive international genetic study led by SciLifeLab researcher Erik Ingelsson has shed light on genetics underlying body mass index (BMI) and obesity by analyzing 263,407 individuals that had undergone genome-wide genotyping. Obesity is increasing rapidly in Western populations, and is a major risk factor for multiple chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Using innovative approaches that exploits the extremes of the trait distribution, the scientists successfully identified seven new gene regions involved in obesity and uncovered new important information about the genetic architecture underlying obesity (Nature Genetics).
A novel approach to cancer treatment
With the knowledge that cancer cells have an increased load of DNA damage, Thomas Helleday’s research group set out to identify DNA repair proteins required only for cancer cell survival. After considering a number of DNA repair proteins, they settled on the enzyme MTH1, required to prevent damage from cancer-specific oxidative stress and went on to synthesise a potent and selective inhibitor, called TH588. This molecule inhibits MTH1 in numerous human cancer cells, and effectively suppressed tumour growth in animal models. This inhibitor is now an excellent candidate for further pre-clinical evaluation, and validates MTH1 in general as a promising novel target for anticancer treatment (Nature).