The EMBL Australia Bioinformatics Resource (EMBL-ABR) is hosted at Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) through a funding agreement between the University of Melbourne and Bioplatforms Australia. 

EMBL-ABR is critical to Australia’s life science infrastructure.

EMBL-ABR is a coordinated, national approach to support Australia to maintain and extend its ability to deliver impact and benefit through national research collaborations and participation in global life science data initiatives such as Big Data to Knowledge (NIH), CyVerse (NSF) and EMBL-EBI and ELIXIR (Europe). Globally, these initiatives have been established to support researchers who, through sharing, exploring and analysing large datasets, are driving the economic, social and health benefits and maximising the impact of data-driven science. 

OUR MISSION

  • Increase Australia’s capacity to collect, integrate, analyse, exploit, share and archive the large heterogeneous data sets now part of modern life sciences research
  • contribute to the development of and provide training in data, tools and platforms to enable Australia’s life science researchers to undertake research in the age of big data
  • showcase Australian research and datasets at an international level
  • enable engagement in international programs that create, deploy and develop best practice approaches to data management, software tools and methods, computational platforms and bioinformatics services.

EMBL-ABR builds on a strong history of locally-based solutions around Australia that enable high performance computing, research and clinical data management, bioinformatics, computational biology, education and training. For example, the Melbourne Node at VLSCI supported over $50M of publicly-funded life science research in 2015 and in 2016 it continues to work on such projects:

  • providing the bioinformatics and analysis environment for the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, part of the Australian Genomics Health Alliance
  • rolling out the Australian-made Genomic Virtual Laboratory - a cloud based suite of genomics analysis tools
  • facilitating research in genetic epidemiology - identifying risk factors across vast data environments. 

"Bioinformatics is an increasingly international endeavour and building a truly global infrastructure for data requires tight collaboration between partners across continents. EMBL-ABR is well placed to serve the local needs of its users and at the same time act as the reference point for global collaborations in data transfer, exchange, storage, compute and training."

Niklas Blomberg, ELIXIR Director

"Organising at the national level will be critical if Australian bioinformatics and EMBL-ABR are to achieve the greatest scientific impact. Modern biology is data-driven, and largely species agnostic when it comes to managing Big Data, solving visualisation challenges, and modeling interactions. A national framework makes this work efficient, and accelerates progress by allowing solutions and resources to flow freely across different communities and areas of expertise. An insight from CyVerse (formerly iPlant Collaborative) was that tackling grand challenges in biology exceeds the resources of single groups or institutions. iPlant's evolution from serving plant science into serving all life science was natural because bioinformatics challenges aren't welded to the domains of life science from which they originate (eg image processing for wheat fields and neurons can have a lot in common)."

Jason Williams, CyVerse

History

Partners in this national initiative were originally EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory), EMBL Australia, Australian National Data ServiceCSIRO, the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Government. The Resource was established at the NCI Specialised Facility in Bioinformatics at UQ, with other partners including QCIF and QFAB.

In April 2015 an agreement with EMBL Australia to relocate EMBL-ABR to the VLSCI was finalised. VLSCI is funded by the Victorian Government and contributing institutions and hosted by the University of Melbourne. Assoc Prof Andrew Lonie was appointed as Director EMBL-ABR and later also assumed the role of Director, VLSCI, a petascale facility delivering expertise and systems for life science computing. At VLSCI he has spent the past six years successfully establishing an expert team of 25 bioinformaticians who work across a range of research projects with local, national and international focus. 

One of Assoc Prof Lonie’s first actions as Director was to appoint Assoc Prof Vicky Schneider as Deputy Director. With her substantial international networks and extensive training experience, Assoc Prof Schneider’s task is to address the growing demand for training and skills development in bioinformatics while concurrently continuing to develop tools, resources and data sharing activities for the Australian research community and our international collaborators. VLSCI and UQ have most recently successfully rolled out the NeCTAR-funded Genomics Virtual Laboratory (GVL) and much of the training will be offered on this platform.

With VLSCI as the host of the Hub for EMBL-ABR, the agreement also includes a network of service providers at Nodes in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, making it a truly national resource.

The Nodes are being resourced to offer EBI standard training and researcher support, plus bioinformatics tools and platform access, to align Australian bioinformatics practices with world standards as being implemented by EMBL-EBI in Europe and BD2K in the US. 


Contact details:

EMBL-ABR Hub Office 
LAB-14, 700 Swanston Street
University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Deputy Director:
Assoc Prof Vicky Schneider
mv.schneider@unimelb.edu.au

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