Government funding for proteomics research networks in Germany keeps flowing: ProteoMonitor has learned that two proteomics consortia and an antibody project expect to receive a total of €15.2 million ($18.3 million) over three years from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) this fall.
Each of the three technology-centered consortia, “Systematic methodological platform: Functional and Chemical Proteomics,” “Systematic methodological platform: Proteomics,” and “Antibody Factory,” consists of several academic groups across Germany and at least one participating company.
The three networks are among 300 projects funded with a total of €135 million ($162 million) from the second round of BMBF’s National Genome Research Network, a funding initiative focusing on functional genomics-driven research into disease. Though the funding was already announced in May, individual projects are still waiting for their grants to be finalized and have not yet been publicly announced.
The “functional and chemical proteomics” network, which expects approximately €7 million in funding, aims to analyze about 1,000 human proteins, focusing on proteins involved in neurodegenerative disorders, certain monogenic disorders, and key signaling proteins. “The aim is to understand regulatory networks, how [each] cell works, and how they are altered in different disease states,” said Erich Wanker, a professor of neuroproteomics at the Max Delbr ck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin-Buch, who coordinates the consortium.
The ten academic groups that make up the network, each of which has its own project, will use a number of proteomic technologies, some of which were developed by a previous consortium, funded under the first round of the NGFN program. “What differs now is, we have a very defined focus,” said Wanker. “We now concentrate much more on data production and analysis and data evaluation than we did in NGFN-1, which was basically [a] technology set-up. There is still some technology development going on, but the main focus is now on the proteins, on pathways, and on disease processes.”
Wanker’s own group will mainly utilize high-throughput yeast two-hybrid technology. A group at the German Resource Center for Genome Research (RZPD) will subclone cDNAs into different expression vectors. Five groups from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin are involved, providing mass spectrometry analysis of proteins, protein expression in different systems, protein complex isolation, analysis of protein-DNA interactions, and data integration and analysis. A group at the Protein Structure Fact-ory in Berlin plans to determine the three-dimensional structures of certain proteins by X-ray crystallography. Researchers at the German Research Center for Biotechnology (GBF) in Braunschweig will study protein-drug interactions, using drug arrays and combinatorial small molecule libraries. A group at the University of Rostock will contribute dynamic modeling of signaling cascades. While no company participates directly, the network is “still open for collaborations with biotech companies where it makes sense,” according to Wanker. A number of companies have been signed on already, among them Berlin-based microarray firm Scienion.
The “proteomics” consortium, coordinated by Helmut Meyer, a professor at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (see PM 1-6-03), is hoping for €6.2 million in funding. It will continue work from the “Human Brain Proteome Project” consortium, which was funded under the first round of NGFN (see PM 2-11-02). The new network, which consists of nine academic groups and bioinformatics company MicroDiscovery, will focus on “more application-oriented technology development,” according to a spokesman for the consortium. “The main focus of the [project] will be to identify relevant biomarkers using different technologies … and to advance the established technologies,” he said in an e-mail message. Those technologies include protein separation and identification, protein complex analysis within the cell, and mRNA profiling. Only four of the ten participants were part of the first consortium — Meyer’s group, a group at Charité in Berlin, a group at the University of Kassel, and MicroDiscovery. Notably, Dortmund-based proteomics company Protagen is no longer a participant.
On the disease side, the network will focus on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A group at the University of Munich will contribute brain tissue, and a group at the University of Hamburg will provide mouse models of the diseases. Patient samples will be provided by a group at the University of Erlangen.
The “antibody factory” project expects to receive €2 million in funding, according to a press release by the Technical University of Braunschweig. In addition to a group at that institution, it will involve researchers at GBF Braunschweig, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, and RZPD. Stefan D bel, a professor at Technical University Braunschweig who coordinates the consortium, did not respond to requests for more information.
Under NGFN’s first funding round, three proteomics consortia were funded with €18.2 million, according to the NGFN website.