NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A European consortium plans to catalog and eventually produce all binding molecules that can help detect and identify human proteins.
“The objective is to set the basis for an infrastructure of binding molecules against the human proteome for detection, validation, and functional studies of the human proteome,” according to Michael Taussig, head of technology research at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, UK, the coordinating partner of the consortium, called ProteomeBinders.
Officially formed a year ago, ProteomeBinders, which pocketed €1.8 million ($2.4 million) in seed funding recently, is made up of 26 European and two US partners.
Understanding the human proteome, including how it controls biological functions and the role it has in human disease, is one of the most significant challenges of the post-genomic age, Taussig said. But in order to get to that stage, there needs to be more information about binding molecules that allow for the detection of proteins.
“Antibodies are universal reagents for protein studies and they have the ability to quantify and detect proteins in all circumstances,” Taussig said. “However, only a small fraction of the proteome is actually covered by existing reagents.”
He estimated that there are binding reagents for about only 5,000 of the more than 100,000 proteins specified by the human genome. “That still leaves a lot of proteins to be covered,” he said. “One doesn’t know whether that’s important or not, but we think rather like the genome project, one ought to have at least one binder or set of binders for every target in the proteome.”
To be sure, ProteomeBinders is not the first initiative aimed at identifying protein-binding molecules. The Human Protein Atlas, a ProteomeBinders partner, currently has more than 1,500 antibodies representing more than 1,300 proteins, and 1.2 million images showing the expression and localization of human proteins.
The National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Proteomic Technologies Initiative for Cancer also is creating a reagents resource to serve as a central warehouse for reagents related to cancer research.
But according to Taussig, ProteomeBinders, while complementing the work of those and others’ efforts, also aims to be much more comprehensive by becoming a one-stop shop for all protein-binding molecules.
“We want to have everything in the resource,” he said. Some of that would be accomplished by linking to the work of other sources such as the NCI and the Human Protein Atlas.
“The key element is that there should be access to these things; they shouldn’t be locked up in a company,” Taussig said. “They should be accessible to the whole community at cost. Not free but at cost.”
The complete version of this article appears in the current issue of ProteoMonitor, a GenomeWeb News sister publication.