Expanding VIB Cores set the wheels of science in motion

23 November 2017

This year, we saw the birth of our 10th Core Facility: the VIB Metabolomics Core, headed by Bart Ghesquière
in Leuven and Geert Goeminne in Ghent. Of course, this tech platform didn’t come out of nowhere. Often
emerging in one of our groups, centers or affiliate universities, cores traditionally move bottom-up, gradually offering more tools and serving more stakeholders. This expansion is facilitated by our Core Facilities Program, where experts keep a close eye on technological game changers – within VIB and beyond.

Chances are we’ll have 11, maybe 12, VIB Core Facilities by 2018. A couple of promising technology platforms
clearly have the potential to rise as institutional cores. One of the key drivers behind this evolution is the
growing number of alliances that VIB cores set up with (partner) universities, other life sciences institutes,
and even companies. “These are what I like to call smart partnerships,” says Geert Van Minnebruggen
(Head Core Facilities at VIB). “Whether you call them ‘cores’ or ‘common platforms’: the benefits, in terms of
cost-effective investments and easier access to technologies that drive science forward, remain the same.”

Recent examples of technology platforms popping up
New Center for Bioassay Development and Screening (C-BIOS)

  • Who? Dominique Audenaert (Head of the VIB Screening Core)
  • Status? Launched last June, C-BIOS is an expertise center fully embedded within the VIB Screening Core. The unit collaborates with VIB Discovery Sciences and bundles the expertise and infrastructure of VIB, Ghent University and the Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG) and offers centralized and cost-effective support to high-content screening, liquid handling and automation.

MutaMouse

  • Who? Adrian Liston (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research)
  • Status? Recently reorganized, renamed (previously: InfraMouse) and reinforced with new equipment,
    this is a classic center core, set up by Adrian but used by other research groups as well. It provides
    research tools in both mouse embryo services and genome engineering (such as CRISPR, knock-out
    and knock-in mice).

Crop Genome Engineering Facility (CGEF)

  • Who? Laurens Pauwels (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology)
  • Status? Set up in 2016 under the leadership of Dirk Inzé (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology), the CGEF aims to unite its expertise in genome engineering with companies looking for advice in this rapidly moving field. For example, plant breeders can use gene editing to increase the genetic diversity in their germplasm or to introduce novel traits in their species.

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Cores as bridge builders, within and outside VIB
The above examples are just a few of the cores and facilities that are continuously evolving, growing and interacting with other institutions. In this way, cutting-edge technology has never been so easily accessible to our researchers. Without any doubt, this evolution will continue and expand further to multiple stakeholders, such as foreign science institutions, spin-offs and external companies.

Geert: “The old-school approach “let’s purchase this tool for our team only” is outdated. The benefits of shared resources are clear-cut! The VIB institutional core facilities are set up to serve the VIB scientific community; but in the meantime they reach out to the whole life sciences community in Flanders, as well to academic groups not belonging to VIB as to the biotech industry. That way, they don’t just benefit from disruptive technologies, but also plug in on expertise they often don’t have in-house. In return, we can redirect these additional revenues towards new infrastructure.

Last but not least, let’s not forget how our cores are working as catalysts between our centers. Because they invest in shared equipment, they have no choice but to work closely together – even if their fields of research seem miles apart. As a result, everybody has become well aware of our cores’ cardinal role. The fact that they’re now being represented in VIB’s management committee as well, is living proof!”



Geert Van Minnebruggen (Head Core Facilities at VIB)
©VIB-Ine Dehandschutter