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Structural Genomics: Canada, Wellcome Trust Team Up for Protein Structure Consortium


Al Edwards is gearing up to be a busy man. The former CEO and CSO of Affinium Pharmaceuticals, now an associate professor at the University of Toronto and senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, just hung a new shingle on his door: CEO of the just-announced Structural Genomics Consortium.

The consortium, which has been in talks for some three years and is based loosely on the public-private structure of the SNP Consortium, is a three-year, £40 million charitable organization launched by the Wellcome Trust, GlaxoSmithKline, and a group of Canadian funding agencies. Work will be performed in Edwards’ research labs at the University of Toronto as well as the University of Oxford and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Though proteomics is no stranger to consortium approaches, this group claims a unique goal: to determine the structure of more than 350 human proteins chosen for their relevance to human health — particularly those implicated in cancer, neurological disorders, or malaria.

“We’ll put these structures into the public domain, free of restrictions,” says Edwards, who agreed to join the organization last summer. “No patents, no anything.”

The Wellcome Trust ponied up £18 million for the consortium, while GSK gave £3 million. The Canadian contingent — comprised of Genome Canada, the Ontario Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust, and the Canadian Institutes of Health — put up the balance of £19 million.

— Meredith Salisbury