The European Federation of Biotechnology

Publiceret Januar 2001

The European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) is currently undergoing a major process of reorganization and reinvigoration. Its goal is to establish close collaborations between all European biotechnologists from industry and academia, facilitate exchange of knowledge and ideas through workshops, congresses and symposia, and contribute to a better understanding and perception of biotechnology by the general public in Europe. EFB works to promote the safe, sustainable and beneficial use of Nature?s resources in life sciences and technologies by supporting sound science as well as the application of engineering and technology. EFB strives to improve public perceptions and education, facilitate exchange of people and ideas, prepare specific courses for Ph.D. students and young postgraduates and stimulate innovation with the common goal of advancing biotechnology in Europe. To learn more about EFB, please visit www.efbweb.org

EFB in the past

EFB was founded originally in 1978 at Interlaken, Switzerland, by European scientists to promote cooperation between non-profit scientific and technical societies in Europe, for the general advancement of biotechnology as an interdisciplinary field of research, and as a means of furthering the scientific and economic development and application of manufacturing processes in a socially and ethically acceptable manner. At that time only national learned societies could be members of EFB.

EFB grew to accommodate 81 biotechnology-related scientific societies from 29 different European countries and 5 from non-European countries.It  was organized into ten working parties covering the main scientific aspects of biotechnology: animal and plant culture technology, applied bio-catalysis, applied molecular genetics, bioreactor performance, downstream processing and recovery of bio-products, education, environmental biotechnology, measurement and control, microbial physiology, and safety in biotechnology. In addition to the working parties, EFB also created a Task Group on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology. Each working party could include two representatives from each European country, delegated by the learned societies.

The working parties and the Task Group on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology have in the past performed very well for instance by:

  • Preparing series of papers, such as "Safe Biotechnology" and "Made by Genetic Engineering" that review and discuss new recombinant products in order to promote a better understanding of genetic engineering.
  • Promoting education and training in biotechnology through various internal and external networking activities.
  • Preparing position papers and reviews on topical issues, or briefing papers such as those published by the Task Group on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology, which have been widely distributed all over Europe.

The booklet "Made by Genetic Engineering", may be ordered from Maike Brueck (brueck@dechema.de) at the EFB Office in Frankfurt.

Working parties, however, only comprised up to two members from each European country. In practice the number of active members was usually much lower. Therefore, the idea developed of transforming the working parties into sections open to all European scientists interested in a particular field of biotechnology. Accordingly the Executive Committee decided in June 1999 to reform the statutes of EFB and to establish an EFB Office and Congress Service to assist the Executives of EFB and its Sections and Task Groups. The new President Pierre Crooy, Belgium, and the new Vice-President Børge Diderichsen, Denmark, were asked to lead this ambitious endeavor which has proved to have been very successful:

  • An EFB Office and Congress Service has been established in Frankfurt at DECHEMA, Germany?s largest not-for-profit organization in biotechnology, under the directorship of the general secretary Dr Rüdiger Marquardt.
  • Almost all working parties have now been transformed into sections or task groups.
  • New statutes have been approved unanimously by the Executive Board, the chairmen of the Sections, Task Groups and Working Parties and at a meeting of the Learned Societies in Berlin, on September 3, 2000.
  • The approval of the new statutes only needs final confirmation at the General Assembly of EFB in Madrid, July 2001.

The Mission of the new EFB

EFB works to promote the safe, sustainable and beneficial use of Nature?s resources in life sciences and technologies by supporting sound science as well as the application of engineering and technology.

EFB strives to improve public perceptions and education, facilitate exchange of people and ideas, prepare specific courses for Ph.D. students and young postgraduates and stimulate innovation with the common goal of advancing biotechnology in Europe.

The objective of EFB is to promote co-operation, on scientific grounds, between national and cross national member societies, their personal members and scientists from academia and industry, for the general advancement of biotechnology as an interdisciplinary field of research and as a means of furthering the scientific development and application of manufacturing processes in Europe. EFB offers all national and cross national European Learned Societies, companies and individuals interested in the promotion of biotechnology a platform for participating in and contributing to enhanced and coordinated activities in Europe.

EFB in the future

EFB is now in the process of restructuring. Soon, it will accommodate universities, research institutions, National and European Associations, and individual companies as well as Learned Societies. Its most important activities will be Sections and Task Groups focusing on special fields of interest. So far, Sections on Agri-Biotechnology, Applied Genome Research, Biochemical Engineering Sciences, and Microbial Physiology have been established. Sections on Medical Biotechnology and on Biodiversity are under formation. The Task Groups on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology and on Education are devoted to the relations between Biotechnology and Society. A Task Group on International Affairs is being formed to intensify scientific contacts worldwide and to advise the European Commission on developing international relations in research, education and innovation,

Major differences between the old and the new EFB:

  • Future memberships of EFB are open to institutions, companies and other organizations with activities and interest in promoting biotechnology in Europe.
  • Specialized or topical activities of EFB will principally be organized by sections or task groups.
  • Individuals may become members of EFB via participation of one or more sections or task groups.
  • Administrative and coordinating matters will be taken care of by professional staff at the EFB Office and Congress Service (OCS) at DECHEMA in Frankfurt.
  • OCS will ensure that future European Congresses of Biotechnology will be planned and executed in a highly professional manner.
  • The Executive Board of EFB which has the overall responsibility for EFB will mainly be composed of those who are directly involved with the core activities of EFB such as the chairmen of the sections and task groups.
  • There will be a fee for institutional members which will enable EFB to react quickly on opportunities that meets with its objectives such as arranging workshops, establishing new sections or respond to invitations for international cooperation.

EFB activities of interest to the European Commission

From its mission and objectives it is evident that EFB shares with the EC many interests. Current and future activities that are likely to be of particular importance:

EFB, its sections and task groups will be happy to advise the Commission on matters related to strategies and priorities in research, training and innovation to optimize the content of European research and other related programs in the Life Sciences.

EFB is currently establishing a new section on Medical Biotechnology to broaden its level of expertise and answer real needs for European science and training.

In view of the current discussions on "The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)" and other initiatives, EFB will establish a section on Biodiversity. In addition to creating the first truly pan-European forum in this field, it will advise the EC on European interests and activities related to the many practical and ethical aspects of the operations of such a facility. Furthermore, an EFB Section on Biodiversity will be a dynamic forum for European scientists active in some of the past, current and future projects funded by the EC in the field.

With the new organization of EFB, the European Congresses of Biotechnology (of which OCS will have full responsibility starting with ECB12 in 2005) will become even better fora to facilitate interaction between scientists, entrepreneurs, companies, investors, government, non-government organizations, the media and the public.

EFB will help to bring together European Commission officials with European and international experts in the fields in which EFB has experiences.

In line with the increased emphasis on raising the public?s understanding and acceptance of the benefit, safety and risks of biotechnology, EFB will discuss with the EC means for expanding the dialogue between the public and scientists. Currently, the EFB Task Group on Public Perception of Biotechnology is very active in this regard and is preparing for the EC an e-mail public inquiry service "Ask the Scientist".

In view of the increasing emphasis on human resources, EFB also intends to develop the activities of its Task Group on Education on Biotechnology.

EFB is applying to the EC INCO program for a continuation of EBNIC (European Biotechnology Node for Interaction with China). EFB believes that it is the pan-European organization best suited to facilitate broad interaction and collaboration between Europe and China in research, training and innovation in the field of biotechnology. The success of the Workshop on "Human Genomics and Technologies" in Berlin on September 9, 2000 organized on behalf of EBNIC created an excellent basis for future cooperation.

EFB has applied the EC INCO program for funds to facilitate equivalent interactions between Europe and the South-Eastern Asian countries (ASEM).

In view of the above, EFB will also establish a new task group to study how best to handle international relations (including non-OECD countries) in the field of biotechnology and engage in discussions with the EC accordingly.

Finally, to broaden its basis and network even further, EFB would like to establish dynamic networks in order to make best use of European facilities and financial and intellectual resources with other pan-European organizations such as EUFEPS (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Sciences), FEBS (Federation of European Biochemical Societies), FEMS (Federation of European Microbiological Societies) and EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization)).

EFB?s goal is thus to establish close collaborations between all European biotechnologists from industry and academia, facilitate exchange of knowledge and ideas through workshops, congresses and symposia, and contribute to a better understanding and perception of biotechnology by the general public in Europe.

For further information on EFB please access www.efbweb.org.