The Children's Hospital Boston last week held a day-long proteomics symposium to mark the opening of its Proteomics Center, which includes about $2.6 million in newly acquired Thermo Electron instruments.
"We had speakers throughout the day, and the room, which is big enough for 250 people, was filled the whole day," Hanno Steen, the director of the Proteomics Center, said of the symposium.
The attendance for the symposium could be an indication of the level of interest in the new Proteomics Center, which offers training courses in proteomics as well as research resources.
"A lot of people really don't know what to do and what not to do with their samples," said Steen. "There's a lot of education to be done."
The new Proteomics Center is one of a handful of proteomics facilities in the Boston area. Harvard Medical School and Harvard University also have proteomics facilities, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently received a $16.5-million gift to establish one of its own (see
The idea for the Children's Hospital Boston's Proteomics Center came about four years ago when Keith Solomon, assistant professor in Orthopedic Surgery at the hospital, hooked up with Paul Morrison, director of the Molecular Biology Core facility at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, located a few blocks away.
"A lot of people really don't know what to do and what not to do with their samples. There's a lot of education to be done."
Solomon had been using 2D gels and MALDI-TOF to do research when he heard about ICAT technology. Morrison said he would be receiving an ICAT kit from Applied Biosystems in a few weeks, and asked if Solomon had any interest in using the kit.
Solomon did, and as soon as the kit arrived, he headed over to Dana Farber to pick it up. After toying with the kit for a few months, Solomon brought his samples back to Morrison. Morrison could not get good resolution from the samples, so he brought them over to Steve Gygi's lab at Harvard Medical School.
Eventually, Solomon too went over to Gygi's lab, where he was impressed with the proteomics equipment, and also with Steen, who worked with Solomon's samples.
"Coming back to Children's Hospital, I thought, 'Boy, it would be really nice if we had this kind of instrumentation and expertise available to people at Children's,'" said Solomon.
Solomon then proposed the idea of a proteomics center to Bruce Zetter, who at the time was vice president of Research at Children's Hospital Boston.
Though Zetter said there was not enough talent, space, or money for a new proteomics center, Solomon was not deterred. He managed to secure space from the Urology Department, and after the hospital set up a special project fund for the center, Steen was recruited to become its new director.
Solomon then went about getting equipment for the new center. After considering packages from all the major mass spectrometry vendors, he and Steen ended up choosing a package from Thermo Electron that included an LTQ-FT, a vMALDI-LTQ, which is a linear quadrupole ion trap equipped with a vacuum MALDI ion source, a regular LTQ, and a multi-dimensional liquid chromatography system.
"Everybody makes good equipment, but let's just say that the suite of instruments from Thermo met our proteomics needs most closely," said Solomon.
In addition, Steen's wife, Judith Jebanathirajah, who was also recruited to the center as a group leader in the neurobiology division, brought with her a Q-STAR mass spec from ABI.
In total, the new Proteomics Center spent about $4 million on equipment, space renovation, and starting salaries, said Steen.
In addition to serving all of Children's Hospital Boston, the new Proteomics Center is open to researchers within the local community, said Steen.
"Coming back to Children's Hospital, I thought, 'Boy, it would be really nice if we had this kind of instrumentation and expertise available to people at Children's.'"
As of now, the center has two full-time and two part-time staff who help run the facility.
While much of the research being done at the Proteomics Center focuses on pediatric diseases, Solomon pointed out that many adult diseases begin during childhood, so those diseases are studied as well.
Steen's own research focuses on developing methods for studying protein modifications and for doing quantitative proteomics. He also studies signaling and developmental biology, and is working on finding biomarkers for pediatric urological diseases.
Jebanathirajah's research focuses on the cell cycle and on finding biomarkers for cancer within cerebral spinal fluid.
Other Children's Hospital researchers who will use the new center on a regular basis include Richard Lee, a pediatric urology researcher (see Proteomics Pioneer); Michael Greenberg and Zhigang He, who are both neurology researchers; Roopali Roy, a vascular biologist; and Katsutosh Goishi, a cataracts researcher.
Both Steen and Solomon said that they hope the Proteomics Center will expand in the future with additional funding from the Children's Hospital Trust.
"We have to see how it develops," said Steen. "I can't say at the moment how many samples we're going to have. When there's much more need, we're certainly going to expand. I certainly hope we're not going to stay this size — I hope that we're going to grow. After all, this is just the beginning here."
— Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])