Published: 2016-09-08 13:54 | Updated: 2016-09-09 08:01

International research project receives Australia’s science Oscar

The international “FANTOM 5” project, in which five researchers from KI are involved, has been awarded a Eureka Prize – also known as Australia’s “Science Oscar” – in the International Scientific Collaboration category.

The FANTOM5 project has been awarded the prize for its international collaboration on the production of a genome atlas, which makes a vital contribution to the understanding of different genetic diseases and the development of therapeutic methods.

FANTOM5 was started by a group in RIKEN, Japan, in 2000, since when it has grown to encompass 260 scientists from 20 countries. One of them is Carsten Daub, at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, who, amongst his other achievements, has helped to identify “enhancers”, or gene regulating elements, which determine which genes are to be activated in a specific cell type. He also sits on the project’s steering committee.

“The key to success with such a large collaborative venture is having very personal contact with others. Many of us have been on board for a long time, and worked together for years,” says Dr Daub.

The project involves all participants sharing their data so that the others can build on the results before publication in a scientific journal.

“This means you need to really trust each other,” he says. “And if you trust people, you get a whole lot back. You can’t be afraid that someone will run off with your results.”

One problem with a collaborative project of this magnitude is publication inertia.

“The first paper, a large, central one, usually takes a long time to get ready for publication. The waiting can be frustrating for everyone else,” he says.

He is now looking forward to getting started on the next project, FANTOM6.

Also participating from Karolinska Institutet are Juha Kere, Karl Ekwall, Andreas Lennartsson and Peter Arner.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are Australia’s most prestigious scientific accolade, and are being awarded for the 27th year in succession.

Text: Maja Lundbäck