SciLifeLab is the largest national research infrastructure in life sciences, that was founded in 2010 by the four host universities: Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University. Since 2013, SciLifeLab is a national research infrastructure with a mandate from the Swedish government and support research activities at most major Swedish universities.
SciLifeLab. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt
“We are a national network of researchers and infrastructure in Sweden in the field of life sciences,” says Mia Phillipson, Professor and Co-director of SciLifeLab.
SciLifeLab’s research encompasses life sciences from single molecules to whole populations, and uses and develops advanced technologies to answer important questions.
To ensure that SciLifeLab’s infrastructure offers the best and latest technologies demanded by researchers in Sweden, all infrastructure follows a specific life cycle. The technologies often start out as researcher-initiated. If the research team then believes that the technology may be of use to other researchers as well, they can apply to become a national infrastructure unit. The technology is then evaluated by a group of leading international scientists, who assess the relevance and uniqueness of the approach and may recommend its inclusion in SciLifeLab’s technology arsenal.
“The aim is that most of the technologies provided by SciLifeLab will not be available elsewhere. They should be cutting-edge technologies,” says Mia Phillipson.
After four years, the infrastructure units are re-evaluated, this time based on how their approach stands up against international competition, how many users they have reached nationally, and what research conducted using their technology has been published. This is a unique way of working with infrastructure that ensures it is constantly renewed and remains relevant to the Swedish research community.
SciLifeLab currently has a large proportion of its operations at Uppsala University. The fact that researchers from Uppsala University make up the second largest share of users shows the importance of the infrastructure for university research.
“There are many advantages for Uppsala University to be so closely linked to SciLifeLab. SciLifeLab’s infrastructure offers personal meetings with users to help them find the right method for their research question, which is very much appreciated,” says Mia Phillipson.
Another advantage is that SciLifeLab gives you the opportunity to get your methods out to researchers all over Sweden. Several of Uppsala University’s former infrastructures are now part of SciLifeLab.
Yet another advantage is that Uppsala University can work strategically with SciLifeLab to promote an even stronger local research environment.
New role during the pandemic
During the current coronavirus pandemic, SciLifeLab has had a new role, distributing grants to COVID-19-related research projects from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The projects have been organised into different areas to allow researchers to work together to answer larger questions.
“For example, the different areas have investigated the virus, how immunity to the virus develops and how to monitor its spread in society by detecting it in wastewater,” says Mia Phillipson.
Among other efforts, the researchers have been mapping how half of the staff at Danderyd Hospital develop illness and immunity to SARS-CoV2 infection since early spring 2020.
“This research has already generated important results. Right now, it is the long-term effects of infection and vaccinations that are being studied. This study is made possible by new and old collaborations between Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University, as well as technologies developed within SciLifeLab,” says Mia Phillipson.
Access to the best possible technology
National research infrastructures will ensure that all researchers in Sweden have access to the best possible technology to go further in answering their research questions.
“In order for Swedish medical research to be at the forefront, relevant and competitive, we need to use the best possible methods for our questions. That is why we need this type of infrastructure. It is part of conducting research responsibly,” says Mia Phillipson.
- SciLifeLab is national research infrastructure: A pool of advanced instruments, technologies and expertise offered to the research community to enable research of the highest scientific quality.
- SciLifeLab’s research infrastructure is organised in platforms, with each platform consisting of units providing services in a defined area of technology.
- There are approximately 45 organisational units that provide services, analyses and expertise based on one or more unique instructions within the platform’s area of technology.
- SciLifeLab’s infrastructure had more than 1400 individual users in 2020