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EDICT to Gather Data On Membrane Proteins

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About one-third of proteins across all species are estimated to be attached to or associated with a cell's membrane, but excruciatingly little is known about them and the roles they play in cellular processes.

A new project backed by the European Commission and 27 universities and companies in Europe, however, is aiming to change that by expanding the knowledgebase of membrane proteins, hopefully leading to the development of new drugs.

Called the European Drug Initiative for Channels and Transporters, or EDICT, the €15.7 million, four-year project includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute, the Karolinska Institute, Oxford University, and the University of Zurich. Drug makers AstraZeneca and Xention, which develops ion-channel drugs, are also participants.

A total of 37 principal investigators are involved, including Nobel laureates John Walker, who shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1997 and is chairing the consortium, and Hartmut Michel, who also shared the Nobel in chemistry, in 1988.

Coordinating the effort will be Peter Henderson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Leeds.

The EC is providing €11.9 million to the effort with the remaining funding coming from EDICT's participants. The goal of the project is to gain more knowledge about the structure of membrane proteins, and then identify compounds that can be developed to treat diseases for which such proteins have been implicated.

EDICT started when the EC put out a call to researchers for a project to develop new drugs in relation to ion channels and transport proteins. From his own work in purification and amplification of membrane proteins in bacteria, Henderson knew other members of the community he felt would be interested in answering EC's call.

Indeed, the interest level was high enough that some parties had to be turned away, Henderson says, and there are no plans to add more participants.

Tony Fong

Proteomics Notes

Under a new agreement, BayPoint Biosystems, a personalized medicine company, now has exclusive, worldwide rights to proteomic technologies from MD Anderson Cancer Center. BayPoint also has rights to clinical biomarkers for ovarian and breast
cancer.

Evotec and Ono Pharmaceutical teamed up for a new drug discovery agreement. The companies will use Evotec's EVOlution platform to identify small molecular weight compounds that target certain proteases. Ono will pay Evotec technology access fees, research funding, and payments based upon achieving certain milestones.

Eli Lilly and HistoRx signed a three-year agreement for Lilly to use Histo-Rx's AQUA technology for tissue biomarker analysis.

Datapoint

$10 million
Protein Discovery closed a $10 million Series C round of financing that will be put toward its sample Prep system.

Funded Grants

$143,370/FY2007
Comparative Proteomics Applied to the Avian Model of Ovarian Cancer
Grantee: Adam Hawkridge, NC State University
Began: Aug 15, 2007; Ends: Jul 31, 2012
Hawkridge will be studying the proteome of the domestic hen to discover potential biomarkers that predict ovarian cancer, since hens spontaneously develop tumors at the age of two. His lab plans to study the proteome using mass spectrometry and related technologies. They hope to eventually translate their findings into human ovarian cancer research.

$132,678/FY2007
Protein Biomarkers for Detection of Pancreatic Cancer Genes
Grantee: Ru Chen, University of Washington
Began: Jul 16, 2007; Ends: Jun 30, 2012
Chen proposes to develop early biomarkers for pancreatic cancer, a highly lethal disease that's difficult to detect. This study, says the grant application, will be the basis for serum biomarker development and will use proteomics to identify proteins specific to pancreatic cancer. From preliminary results, the function of one-quarter of the proteins identified thus far is unknown.

The Scan

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Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.