Cutting-edge biomedical research center to open near Prague

The visualisation of the BIOCEV center, photo: BIOCEV

The Czech Academy of Science and Prague’s Charles University have come together to launch a new top-of-the-line scientific center, that should place the Czech Republic on the map of modern biomedical research. Supported partially by EU funds and the Czech government, the BIOCEV project was officially launched on Tuesday, though some of its researchers are already making headway in the field of genetic research.

The visualisation of the BIOCEV center, photo: BIOCEV
The initiators of this multi-billion crown project are thinking big. BIOCEV wants to become one of seven large-scale cutting-edge scientific centers in Europe. By combing biomedicine with research in other fields such as chemistry, medicine and biology, the Czech Academy of Science hopes the results will lead to advancements in biotechnology and create links to the commercial sphere.

The scientific coordinator of the center Václav Pačes explains the main drive behind the creation of a center that should narrow the gap between scientific research and industry:

“We would like to make Biocev a truly international, or at least a pan-European, institution that will focus on taking the results of basic research and finding practical applications, for example in the field of medicine.”

The center wants to be international not only in the level of its research, but also in the makeup of its staff. Although many positions have not been filled yet, Biocev has already hired researchers from countries like Australia, Canada, Germany and Turkey. They also hope to attract Czech scientists who previously went abroad because of a lack of opportunities to advance their careers in their home country.

The mouse injected with a seaweed gene, photo: BIOCEV
One team at BIOCEV has already proven that cutting edge research can be done in the Czech Republic as well. The Czech Republic’s new Centre for Phenogenomics, otherwise known as the mouse clinic, has presented preliminary results of the genetic research they have carried out on mice who were injected with a seaweed gene that makes their bodies glow under fluorescent light.

Associate Professor Radislav Sedláček, who leads the Functional Genomic team, explains the practical applications of this mutation:

“We use this gene as a sort-of marker which helps us watch the processes that take place in the skin as lesions heal.”

This type of research is quite unique, and since the genetic make-up of mice is almost identical to that of humans, the implications may be highly practical and useful. Once the new research center is built, researchers from all over the world, as well as hundreds of students, will be able to carry out further experiments in its facilities.

Václav Pačes, photo: archive of CRo 7 - Radio Prague
Although the BIOCEV project may in the end get less financial support than expected, the plans to build a large new campus in a village of Vestec near Prague should be realized starting next year. The center plans to eventually sustain itself financially through scientific research grants and cooperation with the commercial sphere. But it also hopes to support not only its own employees, but the surrounding area as well. Václav Pačes explains:

“We have the support of the mayors of Vestec and the surrounding towns. We are in talks with them over the construction, for example, of apartments for our staff, so they really settle down there and so they can help the region develop as well.”