The construction of the multidisciplinary complex of buildings called the BIO4 campus has begun in Belgrade, near Torlak Institute, which, according to the Serbian authorities, will give Serbia the status of a recognizable bioeconomic centre in Europe.
The 413-million-euro B104 project is expected to harness Serbian scientific expertise and private partners from among the world’s biggest pharma, genetics and healthcare companies.
Minister of Science, Technology Development and Innovation Jelena Begovic said that site preparation works had officially begun. “There will also be a sports centre, an accommodation centre and an interactive museum … This is Serbia’s largest single investment in science,” Begovic said and added: “Development of new technologies makes it possible to solve some global and especially local problems in order to make the life of citizens much better,” she added.
On December 24, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, predicted that the site would be up and running in 2026.
“This will make us one of the most advanced European centres for biotechnology,” Brnabic said, adding that the BIO4 campus will gather 1.400 professors and researchers, 4.000 students and over 1,000 PhDs in “the most sophisticated laboratories”.
She added that, while the building is under construction, they are already working on some projects “under the BIO4 platform”. She gave the example of the Swiss company SwissRockets, which already works with the Serbian Institute for the Application of Nuclear Energy, INEP, in researching treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The Ministry of Science, Technological Development and Innovation’s budget for next year plans to set aside nearly 10 million euros to support the work on BIO4.
Serbia in September signed a borrowing agreement with the Council of Europe Development Bank for 200 million euros for the construction and equipment of the BIO4 campus.
The 2024 national budget also projects loans of up to 65 million euros from foreign governments and funds.
The Serbian government has already signed Memorandums of Understanding with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca – known for their vaccines against COVID-19 – and with China’s BGI, one of the world’s biggest genome research organisations, but which is widely seen in the West as a tool of the Chinese government in the harvesting of DNA data.
Memorandums are also signed with the companies Roche, Merch Sharp, Dohme, and Takeda.
The park is expected to become the new home for the faculties of biology and pharmacy, the bioengineering arm of the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, and – fully or in part – of eight scientific institutes.
The park will also host a national database of genetic resources – a so-called “biobank” – bringing together data from microorganisms and plants through animal to human genes, as a vital resource for biotechnology.
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