Funding for a fully integrated NL-BioImaging advanced microscopy infrastructure to understand life and fight disease

On February 20th 2023 NL-BioImaging (NL-BI) received national funding (25M euro of which 15M by NWO) to become the national advanced light microscopy infrastructure providing coordinated access to the Netherlands’ best imaging technology and analysis platforms. NL-BI is a multi-sited collaboration of all 18 Dutch universities, medical academic centers and research institutes.

In the NL-BI consortium, scientists from all Dutch academic research centers will together develop and integrate state-of-the-art microscopy with technologies and services in different nodes. This will enable access for all scientists to revolutionize fundamental insights into the building blocks of life, enable scientific breakthroughs, and advance applications towards society for overcoming life-threatening disease, including cancer, metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative disorders.


Innovative microscopy has been crucial to understand life sciences since Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Exciting recent progress in life sciences includes advances in biosensors, microscopic resolution, and 3D imaging coupled with quantitative image analysis and the ability to mine large amounts of image data with artificial intelligence. These technical milestones enable detection and manipulation of the behaviour of molecules and live cells in organoids, tissues, and small animals to understand basics of life and disease. However, the required investments in high-tech instrumentation, as well as challenges in the development of fluorescent probes and data-analysis tools have become impossible to sustain for individual life science laboratories or even individual microscopy facilities. NL-BioImaging (NL-BI) aims to overcome these challenges by jointly bridging technology gaps and offering access to advance functional imaging in complex systems at all scales. NL-BI is the Dutch infrastructure network for advanced light microscopy in life sciences integrated in the ESFRI program Euro-BioImaging and closely linked to the Dutch Society for Microscopy (NVvM). Participants are all Dutch universities, UMCs, as well as thematic research institutes.

Goals NL-BI will develop and connect state-of-the-art technologies and services for functional imaging of live processes to investigate phenotypic heterogeneity, responses, and mechanisms. A dedicated national FAIR data-management and analysis team will link all Dutch microscopy facilities, and enable greater reuse, mining, and interlinking of large amounts of image data generated using novel artificial intelligence (AI) tools. High-content and functional imaging will create the necessary fundaments to integrate microscopy with the omics technologies (‘visual omics’), requiring on-the-fly data analysis and smart microscopy. By connecting these components, NL-BI will enable fundamental insights and innovative applications, such as development of biomarkers, vaccines, and personalized medicine for complex disorders as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders. Key aims of national relevance are to further develop advanced microscopy, create the necessary infrastructure and provide expertise to enable the Dutch research community to:

  1. Use new molecular probes and biosensors for functional imaging,
  2. Apply fast 3D imaging technologies for functional imaging in complex live-cell systems,
  3. Carry out high-content microscopy screens for cell phenotype changes,
  4. Bridge scales towards electron microscopy and intravital microscopy,
  5. Automate complex microscopy workflows and on-the-fly data analysis to massively increase experimental throughput and provide unbiased, researcher-independent output,
  6. Use a national network for FAIR image data management providing infrastructure, training, and easy-to-use workflows for data analysis of biological images by state-of-the-art neural networks,
  7. Establish a nation-wide training and outreach platform for scientists at all levels.

By providing coordinated access to the Netherlands’ best imaging technology and analysis platforms, the NL-BI roadmap proposal will achieve much-needed excellence in advanced optical microscopy to secure the international competitiveness of Dutch life science research.

Executing Organisations

  • Amsterdam UMC – Locatie AMC (penvoerder); coordinator: prof. dr. Eric Reits
  • Erasmus MC
  • Leiden Universitair Medisch Centrum
  • Maastricht UMC+
  • Nederlands Kanker Instituut
  • Prinses Maxima Centrum voor Kinderoncologie
  • Radboud Universitair Medisch Centrum
  • Technische Universiteit Delft
  • Universiteit Leiden
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht
  • Universiteit Utrecht
  • Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Wageningen University & Research