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Funded by Industry and State, Germans Launch Human Brain Proteome Project

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While HUPO picks the brains of experts for ideas on how to coordinate large-scale partnerships between academia and industry, a consortium of nine academic groups and three biotechnology companies in Germany has picked the brain for a project that aims to develop and evaluate new proteomics technologies.

The “Human Brain Proteome Project” is funded by a three-year 10.6 million grant ($9.2 million) from a funding program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, called “Development of Platform Technologies for Functional Proteome Analysis,” which was awarded last July. This is matched by 3.1 million from the three companies: Protagen, based in Dortmund, and Scienion and MicroDiscovery, both based in Berlin.

[A similar collaborative project based in Munich and Mainz, which focuses on new proteomics technologies for clinical oncology, received a 6.8 million grant from the same program last fall.]

Although still in its early stages, the consortium plans to spend three years focusing on improving capillary LC/MS/MS, 2D gel electrophoresis, multi-dimensional HPLC, protein complex purification, DNA and protein chip technology, and develop proteomics database software, according to Helmut Meyer, the spokesman for the brain proteome project and a professor at Bochum University.

Testing their technologies on brain samples, “we will produce a catalogue of all the proteins which we can identify from human and mice brain tissue and examine some distinct diseases in mice models like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” said Meyer, who is also a cofounder of Protagen. The goal is to identify more than 10,000 brain proteins, he said, and to further characterize the function of those proteins involved in specific diseases using mouse models. “We will not do a high-throughput screen for protein-protein interactions,” he said.

The data will belong “to all the participants and will be shared according to the written contract,” said Meyer, adding that the industry partners have right of first refusal for any intellectual property resulting from the project. The data will be stored in a database currently being developed by Protagen, which is planning to sell proteomics database software.

The consortium held its first meeting last November and has so far identified several hundred brain proteins from 2D gels, as well as chosen the mouse disease models it wants to study. In the future, Meyer said, the consortium is hoping to collaborate with European groups studying neurodegenerative diseases and is planning to apply for funding from the 6th European Framework Program in 2003, a multi-year research funding initiative of the European Union.

— JK

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