2017 has been a crucial year for WELBIO. A 4th call for projects was opened in January 2017 and led to the selection of 14 new projects. By the end of 2017, the project portfolio included 28 basic research projects funded by Wallonia through the Strategic Fundamental Research Fund, as well as one new WELBIO Bridge Fund project. WELBIO investigators conduct innovative research in various domains such as cancer biology, immunology, neurobiology, metabolism or microbiology. The 24 articles published in 2017 in the most prestigious journals are testament of the scientific excellence of our research groups. In 2017, WELBIO received its first financial returns on investment further to a license agreement concluded with a biotech company. Pathways to creating economic value are emerging for several other WELBIO projects. Funding (WALInnov, BioWin) was obtained for targeted / applied research projects stemming from WELBIO projects. These « downstream » projects involve partnerships with Walloon companies. Last but not least, a project for the creation of a first spin-off company emerging from a WELBIO project, has been initiated.
28 very high-level projects are thus currently being funded and supported by WELBIO. This is testament to the strength the life-sciences skills the researchers in our country's French-speaking universities have. Unfortunately, too many great quality projects proposed by extremely talented researchers could not be retained, due to insufficient funds. We can only repeat last year's message: the fragility of WELBIO's funding is still the major challenge that must be overcome. Fundamental research, in particular in our field, is a long-winded enterprise in which continuity and long-term stability is absolutely necessary. The creation of FRFS in 2013, was intended to guarantee WELBIO's sustainability. In practice, this objective has not yet been achieved. We are therefore forced to note that WELBIO's minimal funding is reappraised every year. WELBIO is currently waiting to find out the direction defined by its new responsible minister, in particular to know whether the means will be available to launch a 5th call for projects
Pierre Van Renterghem, General Manager of WELBIO: "Our results in 2017 illustrate the pertinence of WELBIO’s mission : creating value for the Walloon economy through the support of very high level basic research projects conducted by investigators in the universities of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation".
Original version in French. The English version will follow soon.