New Technologies for Proteomics Research

EU-funding for international proteomics research project / Max Planck Institute for Biochemisty, Martinsried/Germany, coordinates the project

March 11, 2004

"INTERACTION PROTEOME" is the largest EU-funded project in the field of proteomics to date. The "Integrated Project" brings together the scientific excellence of eleven leading European research institutions and companies, including the largest European manufacturers of mass spectrometers and electron microscopes. The project will be funded with a total of 12 Million Euros for five years within the Research Framework Programme 6 of the European Commission to develop novel technologies for proteomics research. The project consortium celebrated the official opening of "INTERACTION PROTEOME" together with representatives of the European Commission during the "kick-off meeting" in Rome end of January 2004.

Major objectives of INTERACTION PROTEOME include the establishment of a broadly applicable platform of routine methods for the analysis of protein interaction networks in bio-medical research. A multidisciplinary approach is laid out to address different aspects of the generation of protein-interaction data; their validation by cell biological, biochemical and biophysical methods; their collection in a new type of public database; and their exploitation and use for "in silico"-simulations of protein-interaction networks. Each of these objectives represents a substantial advance of the state of the art in these technologies. The innovations generated in INTERACTION PROTEOME will thus provide the basis for an efficient analysis and systems modelling of fundamental biological processes in health and disease.

INTERACTION PROTEOME will develop novel technology, including a high-end mass spectrometer with an extremely large dynamic range, high-density peptide arrays, and improved visualisation technology for light and electron microscopy. Experts from the University Odense, the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, Ghent, and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, cooperate with the manufacturers ThermoElectron (Bremen) GmbH, FEI Electron Optics B.V., Eindhoven, und Jerini AG, Berlin in this aspect of the research programme.

The novel technologies will be validated with model systems of high relevance to medicine and biotechnology. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, the GSF-National Research Centre for Environment and Health, Munich, and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow, contribute their extensive expertise with the project's selected model systems.

Extensive bioinformatics support is a key element in the project to cope with the massive increase in experimental data on protein interactions obtained using the novel technologies. In particular, the efficient integration of disparate data sets represents a key challenge in proteomics and functional genomics. The possibility to analyse the newly discovered interactions in the context of the rich interaction data already published in the scientific literature by the community of "traditional" biologists will represent an essential prerequisite for the success of the consortium. Therefore, the consortium includes the creator of the only European protein-interactions database MINT, the University of Rome, TorVergata, along with the Danish Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Lyngby, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, EMBL, Heidelberg.

Ulrich Hartl, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, has accepted the challenge to coordinate the highly ambitious Integrated Project, which, according to the EU-evaluators " likely to have a significant impact on the European scientific community, which will reinforce the competitiveness of major European laboratories and manufacturers in the field".

The EU Commission's Sixth Research Framework Programme (2002-2006) "FP6" is one of the world's largest research programmes with a budget of 17.5 billion Euros. One major objective of FP6 is the creation of a unified "European Research Area". Networking of top scientists all over Europe to solve current technological issues in various fields of research, including aeronautics and space, health, environment, food safety, information technology, and materials and nanotechnologies will be supported to achieve this ambitious goal.

The installation of new project types, the so-called "New Instruments" in FP6 allows for the formation of large, multidisciplinary international consortia with research budgets of up to 20 million Euros for a project duration of up to five years.

"Integrated Projects" currently represent the "New Instrument" favoured by the scientific community. These projects bring together interdisciplinary consortia of partners from basic research to industry in order to facilitate an immediate transfer of knowledge from basic science to industrial application. This direct interaction between technology and biology in the cooperation of scientists with manufacturers represents the major characteristics of Integrated Projects. It is expected to shorten the time required to bring new knowledge through to the application stage.

The first Calls for Proposals in Framework Programme 6 covering a total budget of 5 billion Euros were published in December 2002. Almost 12.000 applications were received and evaluated by the EU Commission together with independent experts. Contract negotiations for the successful applications are still ongoing, however the first successful projects started by the end of the year 2003.

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