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HUPO Appoints Samir Hanash as First President

NEW YORK, June 25 - The Human Proteome Organization has elected Sam Hanash, a cancer researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School, as its first president, the organization said Monday.

The 24 members of the advisory board to the Human Proteome Organization, or HUPO, approved Hanash's appointment over the weekend, said Ian Humphery-Smith, a pharmaceutical proteomics researcher at the University of Utrecht who has acted as HUPO's primary spokesperson until now.

Hanash, who was not immediately available for comment, has published research on new methods for separating and identifying proteins, as well as the clinical applications of proteomics to cancer research as a professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases. His group is currently investigating new protein drug targets and biomarkers for the early diagnosis of cancer.

HUPO first came into being last February, when 24 proteomics researchers--from Ruedi Aebersold at the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle to John Yates at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego--agreed to serve as an advisory panel for the fledgling organization. In April, the group held its first meeting in McLean, Va., where members of the advisory panel and other scientists debated how HUPO should contribute to proteomics.

How exactly HUPO would coordinate public and private sector efforts to catalog and characterize the body's proteomes was left somewhat unresolved, but Humphery-Smith, and now Hanash, believe that the organization can play a central role. In the long run, HUPO plans to establish a public database of all human proteins, including all isoforms of the proteins expressed by each gene, and make freely available a library of cDNA clones for every open reading frame in the genome.

But in the short term, Hanash's plans for HUPO are more administrative. In a statement, he said he plans to establish working groups within the organization to tackle specific issues such as incorporating HUPO and establishing guidelines for future activities.

"There is a need to develop a real focus for HUPO that does not compete with other ongoing activities but that synergizes other efforts in proteomics," he said. "An infrastructure needs to be put in place that allows HUPO to move forward in its mission."

In addition to incorporating HUPO as a legal entity, Hanash also aims to find a steady source of funding for the organization's internal activities, and rent office space near the Human Genome Project offices in London to house public relations and other internal functions.

Unlike the Human Genome Project, HUPO does not currently receive any government funding for its coordination activities. However, the organization claims that its members collectively control over a billion dollars in funding through their respective institutions.  

Hanash and Humphery-Smith, for their part, are cautiously optimistic about HUPO's prospects. The number of discrete groups of researchers involved in proteomics across the globe will make coordinating an international effort difficult, they said, but that doesn't mean HUPO shouldn't try.

There remains an important role for HUPO in helping to promote proteomic studies, facilitate interactions between groups, promote public debate, and solicit greater funding for the research endeavors, a HUPO statement said.

HUPO has its own website, at www.hupo.org.

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