Over many months during 2019, a small circle of like-minded biologists from different sectors, unified by a common vision, huddled together in intense brain-storming sessions. Their task was to establish a vibrant new national scientific society in biology, modeled on international best practices and unifying and supporting scientists in their work. Although Cyprus is a small country with a population of less than 1 million inhabitants, still this task was formidable and had to meet challenges and considerations large and small, including how to mobilise and inspire a diverse and active but scattered scientific community, to draft a compelling constitution and all-inclusive mission statement, to chart the initial scientific activities, to network locally and internationally, and, last but not least, to choose the name and design the emblem! Oh, and all the associated legal bureaucracy!
As a result, βιος-Society of Biological Sciences in Cyprus (βιος-SBSCy), a non-profit scientific society, was officially registered in the Republic of Cyprus in December 2020 and publicly launched in February 2021 (www.sbscy.org). Its mission is to promote scientific research, training, education, discourse, and outreach of its members, and its principal objective to support Biology and the Molecular Life Sciences in Cyprus is based on the use of scientific reason and method.
Although the βιος-SBSCy is just over 2 years old, it has been warmly embraced by the biological community of Cyprus and has taken things in its stride. It has become a member of the IUBMB (International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) and the EEF (European Ecological Federation) since 2021, and of the FEBS (Federation of European Biochemical Societies) since 2022. The βιος-SBSCy currently has about 250 members who are active researchers and scientists primarily derived from academia and research centres and also from the medical, diagnostic, biotech, pharmaceutical and agrotechnology sectors, as well as education, government scientific laboratories and departments, NGOs, and, importantly, including young scientists (postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students). Both its leadership and membership are diverse and representative in their composition, in line with EU Law and academic ethics, gender-balanced and international with 8.6% of members working in Universities abroad.
Since February 2021, and despite the Covid 19 pandemic, the βιος-SBSCy has offered a rich scientific program to its membership, in English, by establishing, via on-line platforms, a regular research Seminar Series with international invited speakers and a regular Coffee Series with short scientific talks, followed by discussion among participants. In October 2022, we organized the “1st βιος-SBSCy National Conference on Molecular Life Sciences” at the University of Cyprus. This was a two-day in-person scientific conference with talks from international speakers, short talks from young researchers, and a poster session. The conference highlight was the FEBS National Lecture, the first ever in Cyprus, delivered at the Ceremonial Hall of the old campus of the University of Cyprus by Dr Martin Jansson, Assistant Professor at the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) of the University of Copenhagen, and entitled: “Tuning the ribosome in health and disease”. Dr Janson introduced the Cyprus audience to the pioneering work in Prof Lund’s laboratory at the BRIC. He described findings to show that rRNA 2’-O-methylation represents a considerable source of ribosome heterogeneity in cells and tissues, and that site-specific 2’-O-methylation can modulate ribosome function. This adds a new, previously unknown layer of regulation of gene expression and significantly expands our understanding of the so-called “dogma of molecular biology”.
In May/June of this year, we will welcome to Cyprus a delegation from the FEBS Executive Committee, and we are looking forward to presenting to them the research landscape of Cyprus and to working closely with the organisation to promote and contribute FEBS activities in Cyprus.