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European Proteomics Leaders Meet to Discuss EUPO; Will It Be Superfluous?

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Following the formation of USHUPO, HUPO China, and other local versions of the Human Proteome Organization, European proteomics researchers have decided to band together to found EUPO — the European Proteomics Organization.

“We can’t continue in Europe to have national meetings and not organize something for all of Europe,” said Garry Corthals, one of the initial organizers of EUPO who called together a meeting of 16 European proteomics researchers last week to discuss EUPO for the first time. “It’s like having a Washington HUPO and a New York HUPO. Europe represents in a sense a nation of Europeans.”

At the first three-and-a-half-hour long EUPO meeting held in Siena, Italy, the day before the commencement of last week’s 6th international Siena proteomics meeting, European researchers said they wanted to create the group because they want to be more efficient in proteomics, to not duplicate each others’ efforts, and to promote proteomics in Europe.

European nations that signed on to the EUPO idea include Switzerland, Germany, Britain, France, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and Holland.

Aside from Corthals, a member of the Biomedical Proteomics Research Group at the University of Geneva, other initial EUPO organizers were Jean-Charles Sanchez and Dennis Hochstrasser, also of the University of Geneva, and Friederich Lottspeich of the Max Planck Institute in Martinsried, Germany.

“We asked every country that had national organizations involved in proteomics if they wanted to come together and join forces,” said Corthals. “There was ‘yes’ from everyone. Everyone was extremely positive.”

But some European proteomics researchers who were not involved in the first EUPO meeting felt it was unnecessary to have a middle step between proteomics at the national level and the international HUPO.

“If we were in a position to overcome national things, then maybe it would be good,” said Michael Steinwand, the director of Applied Biosystem’s Science Center Europe. “But the power is still within the states. England and Switzerland still have their own currency, and the national level is something you can’t get around because of the different systems of doing things.”

One Soup, Many Cooks

Within Europe, several national branches of HUPO are already in existence, including the French electrophoresis and proteomics society, the German HUPO, the Italian Human Proteome Organization, the Swedish Proteomics Society, the British Society for Proteome Research, and Russia’s RHUPO.

The global HUPO was founded about three years ago. Its mission is to consolidate national and regional proteome organizations into a worldwide organization, to encourage the spread of proteomic technologies, to help spread proteomic knowledge, and to help coordinate public proteomic initiatives.

So far, global proteomic initiatives organized through HUPO include the Human Plasma Proteome Project, the Human Liver Proteome Project, the Proteomics Standards Initiative, the Human Brain Proteome Project, and the Mouse and Rat Proteomic Project.

Corthals said EUPO is not meant to be antagonistic toward any other European scientific organization, such as the Federation of European Biochemical Society, and that there will be a lot of overlap between EUPO and the international HUPO. He noted the enthusiasm of the initial EUPO participants as a sign that it should exist.

“This idea has come from the bottom up,” said Corthals. “We all think we should be doing something together and not duplicating efforts. I was moved that everyone said ‘yes’ (to forming EUPO) — I think that says something.”

The next step for EUPO is to meet this month to draft a mission statement with clear objectives of the organization, to document the organization on paper, and to send out the information to proteomics societies and to the public, Corthals said. The organizers will then meet again in February 2005 during an international proteomics meeting in Cordova, Spain, to discuss further plans, including coordination with the global HUPO.

“We need to decide who we are ourselves before we come together and talk to HUPO,” said Corthals.

No one has stepped forward so far to say they would like to be the president of EUPO, and it is unclear so far how leaders of the organization will be elected, Corthals added.

Lottspeich, the Max Planck researcher, said one problem of setting up EUPO will be dealing with strong national proteomics societies that have been organized first. However, the formation of a European HUPO has been talked about for some time, and it is a logical step, he said.

“There’s an American HUPO, there’s a HUPO Asia and there certainly should be a HUPO Europe,” said Lottspeich. “We will make a European proteomics society. We have initiated it and we are excited. The first step is that all proteomics societies in Europe attend a EUPO meeting.”

Despite the enthusiasm of other European proteomists, ABI’s Steinwand, who regularly deals with international colleagues, remained skeptical.

“We have the means and tools to overcome a middle-level HUPO in terms of communications,” he said. “We can have conference calls, we can use the internet and exchange documents in the same second. Having a European subunit will be something else, an added step that we have to take into consideration.”

— TSL

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