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Backing Structural Proteomics in Europe: 13.7 Million SPINE Initiative Gets Underway


A new three-year European structural biology initiative, Structural Proteomics in Europe, (SPINE) was launched last month.

Funded with €13.7 million from the EU’s 5th Framework Program, SPINE brings together researchers at 20 institutions in the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Israel. The project members intend to produce three-dimensional structures of proteins relevant to human health, and plan to solve 50 structures in the first year, and 500 by the end of the third year. These will include proteins from bacterial and viral pathogens, as well as human proteins relevant to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Each participating institute, or “node,” will be primarily responsible for a certain scientific aspect of the project; for example, developing protein expression systems in bacteria and eukaryotes, crystallization technologies, or NMR methods.

SPINE adds to a number of other European structural genomics projects, such as the Protein Structure Factory in Berlin, as well as numerous international projects, including the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative, and the Japanese RIKEN Structural Genomics/Proteomics Initiative.

Overlap between these projects is hard to avoid, but not necessarily a bad thing. “In the current phase, which is a pilot phase, both in the US and in Europe, some overlap is actually beneficial, because this provides error-checking,” said Stephen Burley, CSO of Structural GenomiX and principal investigator of the New York Structural Genomics Research Consortium. “When the teams in the US and Europe and Japan go into production mode, that’s the point at which the problem of overlap will have to be dealt with,” he added.

— JK

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