Mission and goals of NL-BioImaging-AM

Contribution to scientific excellence in the life sciences through innovative state-of-the-art imaging technologies is the central mission of NL-BI. We will render Advanced Optical Microscopy (AOM) techniques and expertise accessible to virtually any life science researcher and scientists in training thereby accelerating innovations that will lead to novel applications in areas of societal and economic importance. Through this roadmap investment the national life science community will be able to implement AOM to answer the challenging scientific questions that requires fast and sensitive advanced imaging of complex multicellular 3D model systems as well as innovative DM and DA. Training and access of life science microscopy will be nationally coordinated. This will ascertain broad implementation to life-science researchers from different disciplines and enable open-access across life science domains. To reach these goals, NL-BI will focus on the following specific aims:

  1. Strengthen regional Flagship Nodes by novel cutting-edge 3D, intravital microscopy (IVM) technologies and advanced high throughput microscopy (HTM), based on local strengths and opportunities
  2. Provide excellent scientists with revolutionary innovative light sheet (LS) live-cell microscopy
  3. Establish an image analysis and software team of computational scientists that allow to tackle DA and DM at a national level
  4. Implement FAIR principles of microscopy data in the context of European initiatives
  5. Foster cooperation and collaboration between instrument developers, scientists, industry, (inter)national microscopy roadmaps and initiatives

Innovative microscopy has been crucial to understand biology for centuries and has a proud tradition in the Netherlands since Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Through the recent revolution in resolution, coupled with the ability to mine large amounts of image data with artificial intelligence, the pivotal role of imaging technologies to understand life and disease has increased dramatically. Today, imaging drives the life sciences from the analysis of basic molecular and cellular processes to the real-time monitoring of disease progression and the development of new drugs. NL-BioImaging (NL-BI) is the national infrastructure network for advanced microscopy in life sciences which includes all major Dutch life science institutes and is closely linked with the Dutch Society for Microscopy (NVvM). NL-BI will provide coordinated access to four complementary platforms of cutting-edge imaging technologies to enable a broad range of life scientists to make groundbreaking discoveries. Major capabilities offered by NL-BI will include advanced organoid imaging, deep tissue microscopy, and fate-tracing of stem cells by intravital microscopy. These and other advanced microscopy technologies will provide new parameters and probes for human diagnosis and drive innovative therapy. The advanced optical microscopy that delivers this potential, is a set of highly specialized techniques, whose complexity, cost, and data rates are continuously increasing. The required investments in high-tech instrumentation, IT infrastructure, and highly skilled engineers has become impossible to sustain for individual life science laboratories. Access to the latest advanced microscopy techniques and the expertise to exploit them at full performance has thus become a major bottleneck for progress competitiveness in life science research in The Netherlands. NL-BI will form a large-scale national infrastructure to:

  • enable open access to next generation microscopies (especially 3D and real time) and their quantitative data analysis through a set of complementary platforms of excellence;
  • develop new services for multi-parameter intravital and functional imaging techniques to support research on complex (patho)physiologically relevant processes;
  • coordinate a national network for image data analysis and management that provides Findable Accessible Interoperable Reusable (FAIR) data management and training.

These priorities are underpinned by an extensive survey of the best Dutch life scientists, ranging from early-career holders of prestigious grants to large research consortia as well as all microscopy core facilities, that have an excellent view of the needs of the national user community. Next-generation 3D imaging technologies and the associated data analysis challenges have been identified as a high-priority to secure national competitiveness. Specifically, needs for high-performance real-time imaging ranging from high-resolution subcellular imaging to intravital imaging, high-throughput, and correlative microscopy were most pertinent. NL-BI ensures open-access support in the fields of translational imaging and a bright future for the Dutch life sciences. NL-BI furthermore closely collaborates with the Netherlands Electron Microscopy Infrastructure (NEMI) to provide joint services in the area of correlative microscopy and data-management. The survey also identified a critical general bottleneck in data management and availability of data analysis tools for multi-parameter and large image datasets. Addressing this urgent need is beyond the reach of individual academic centers and requires a nationally coordinated closely federated solution. NL-BI will take on the challenge of structured image data-management following the FAIR principles, coordinated by a new NL-BI node-overarching data network. Thereby, a repository of openly available computational tools will be linked to data analysis expertise for nationwide distribution and imaging facility staff training (‘train the trainers concept’). The NL-BI network of image data experts will closely collaborate with the general data services team of the ESFRI infrastructure Euro-BioImaging to follow international standards. In summary, by providing coordinated access to the Netherlands’ best imaging technology platforms for next generation technologies and by implementing a nation-wide digital image analysis environment supported by expert image analysts, the NL-BI roadmap proposal will provide coordinated infrastructure deployment and achieve the much-needed excellence in advanced optical microscopy to secure the international competitiveness of Dutch life science research.