For many years, Belgium has been at the forefront of life sciences and biotech development, focusing on sustainable agriculture and human health, as both fields of research have been recognized as being of major importance for creating a sustainable world.
Bioinformatics in Belgium is becoming increasingly established and as a result more and more initiatives to build infrastructure and stimulate collaboration are being initiated and will eventually be integrated to strengthen the Belgian ELIXIR Node. Research fields of particular interest to the Belgian ELIXIR Node are plant research and the biomedical sciences.
Regarding plant research and sustainable agriculture, Belgium has an impressive number of R&D driven biotech companies that collaborate with academic institutes and research centres. For instance, Flanders can boast the largest European R&D cluster in plant biotech with an outstanding level of cooperation between research institutions and multinationals. This excellence has led to numerous important plant genomics resources, unique data mining and biostatistical tools, and databases for plant molecular biology with applications in sustainable agriculture.
Regarding health, the clinical genomics community in Belgium has developed specific infrastructure to generate and handle next-generation sequencing data for diagnostic and research purposes. The ensuing databases of genomic sequence data and clinical diagnostic data are of great value for biomedical research.
Belgium also invested in high performance and big data computing and particularly computing resources for next generation sequence data handling. An example is the Flemish Supercomputer Centre (VSC), a shared resource available to all life science research that is upgrading its facilities to handle the combination of big data computing and high performance computing more efficiently.