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Much Hoopla about HUPO

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Move over, genome. As the human genome project frenzy settles down, attempts to undertake a similar proteome effort are gaining momentum.

At an early April meeting in Tysons Corner, Va., a group of academic and industry scientists met to take on the proteome challenge. Although the assembly succeeded in generating vigorous debate, it was hard pressed to agree on what exactly the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) would oversee, or how.

Part of that stems from the fact that HUPO itself is still under development. The organization currently consists of 24 advisory members from academia and industry, but has yet to receive any federal or private funding. As this magazine went to press, co-founder Ian Humphery-Smith had spoken with a candidate for president and was about to conduct an electronic balloting.

It seems the organization will develop simultaneously with its goals. At the meeting, many scientists said HUPO should coordinate various efforts involved in proteome study — cataloging proteins, determining structure, and studying their interactions — but couldn’t agree on a means. While some academics called for HUPO to coordinate public and private researchers to prevent duplicated efforts, others (mainly industry scientists) claimed that top-down coordination would only delay science. Predictably, industry and academic scientists also disagreed on the question of free access to data.

Others countered that coordination should not necessarily be HUPO’s goal. Humphery-Smith contends that the organization should facilitate or promote the worldwide effort to study the proteome, rather than manage it. “Can we coordinate a global effort?” he asks. “Probably not. But is there a need to promote [proteomics research]? I hope the answer is yes.”

— John S. MacNeil

 

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