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Published: 2023-03-14 Updated: 2023-06-14, 12:50

Life science at the forefront

NEWS Umeå University is an actor in the Science for Life Laboratory, SciLifeLab, whose vision is for Sweden to be a world-leading nation in life science. In Umeå, SciLifeLab offers access to seven specialized service platforms: Genomics, Metabolomics, Imaging and Molecular structure, Chemical biology, Drug discovery, Diagnostics and Bioinformatics.

Text: Claes Björnberg

SciLifeLab started in 2010 as a collaboration between four universities: Karolinska Institutet, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University. Today, higher education institutions are included in six cities. Here are resources for research and development in health, environment and climate, agriculture and forestry and bioenergy. The service platforms are presented on SciLifeLab's website.
Life science is an area of ​​great strategic importance for Sweden. The resources within SciLifeLab have helped thousands of users from academia, business and healthcare to take their scientific projects to the next level. This by offering high-tech analysis methods, handling large amounts of research data and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Unique equipment

SciLifeLab provides access to a range of cutting-edge technologies in molecular bioscience. Dedicated researchers on staff can offer support throughout the entire experimental process – from study design to data management.
- At the start, the focus was on the Mälardalen, but in 2021 a decision was made that all "sites" should be equal. Even before that, Umeå had nodes, so we have always been involved, says Linda Sandblad, researcher in biochemistry and cell biology and director of SciLifeLab Umeå.

A lot has happened since the start of SciLifeLab

It means a lot to researchers that there are unique equipment and unique methods, so advanced and expensive that they cannot be found in all universities. Shared access to the best methods makes it possible for Sweden to be at an absolutely world-leading level.

Access to development

- A lot has happened since SciLifeLab started, the techniques are developing and with it the service to researchers. One example is genetics, with research based on DNA sequence data at the individual and cellular level. To describe the development, ten years ago you could identify a sequence, whereas today we can see an entire population, says Linda Sandblad.
As mentioned, there are far more than researchers who can take part in SciLifeLab. If a company is to develop a new product, then one can use existing resources and take the actual costs of the analyzes carried out.
- In addition, the hospitals greatly benefit from our resources in various clinical investigations. We are also open to inviting the public. Schools and other organizations are welcome to learn about the methods used and share the results.

Shared resources

Part of SciLifeLab's operations is at the Umeå Center for Electron Microscopy, UCEM, where Linda Sandblad herself works. UCEM is used annually by more than 200 different research groups and several companies, many in Umeå.
The overall mission of SciLifeLab is to enable life science research that goes beyond what is possible for a single researcher, a single university or a single research discipline. The resources are often shared by higher education institutions. For example, there is Cryo-EM, i.e. cryo-electron microscopy to determine organismal and molecular structures, both in Umeå and at SciLifeLab in Solna. The cryo-EM service is used to 50% by groups from other universities and from collaboration partners, e.g. Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular medicine.
– Cryo-EM works equally well in both places, and everyone involved can collaborate on methods and share results. It is more the rule than the exception that SciLifeLab's platforms with different "units" are located in two or three places, says Linda Sandblad.

More information on SciLifeLab Umeås website

Research Infrastructure Day

SciLifeLab is just one element at Research Infrastructure Day, an open research meeting at Umeå University on March 15 2023. The day is organized jointly by the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Science and Technology.


Linda Sandblad
Research fellow