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EC Shells Out First 40M to Forge Pan-European Genomics Collaborations

NEW YORK, March 21 - The European Commission has spent €40 million, or $35 million, to launch a new genomics research initiative that will create an international mutant mouse-analysis consortium, fund a €13.7 million proteomics project, and create the world's largest database of information on human twins.

 

These projects, announced earlier this week, are the first part of a new €2.2 billion, four-year genomics research drive the commission plans to unveil later this year.

 

Each of the three new efforts will be set up as pan-European collaborations between top industry and academic researchers:

 

·        The mouse project, Eumorphia, will coordinate phenotypic analysis of new mutant mice. The project will establish new phenotypic standards, develop new bioinformatics tools to organize the information, and promote new techniques in gene-driven mutagenesis. Coordinated by Steve Brown of the UK's Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit, it will be funded at roughly €12.3 million.

 

·        SPINE, or Structural Proteomics In Europe, aims to decode the structures of more than 600 proteins implicated in a range of common diseases, from cancer and neurodegenerative diseases to pathogens such as herpes viruses and tuberculosis. The project also will underwrite research into new techniques in protein production, purification, crystallization, and structure analysis, and develop new high throughput-tools for protein over-expression and structure interpretation. It will be coordinated by the MRC's David Stuart.

 

·        The EC also will back a new twin registry that will include detailed genetic, epidemiological, and clinical information on roughly 600,000 twin pairs to provide insight into the interplay between genetic variability and environmental factors in disease. This collaboration, which brings together geneticists, epidemiologists, and statisticians, will be directed by the Finnish National Public Health Institute's Leena Peltonen.

 

These projects are the "flagships" of the EC's efforts to back international, interdisciplinary genomic and post-genomic research. Details on the collaborators and their efforts can be found at http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/research/press/2002/pr1803en.html

 

The increased funding comes as a welcome boost for European researchers: EC European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin originally requested only €2.0 billion between 2002 and 2006 to be earmarked for research in genomics and biotech. Last fall, the European parliament was planning to devote only €1.1 million to the sector.

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