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German Meeting Drives HUPO s Antibody Initiative, Brain Proteome Project Further

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At a small one-day meeting at Germany’s Frankfurt airport last week, the Human Proteome Organization further defined two initiatives under its umbrella — a human brain proteome project and an antibody initiative.

A monoclonal antibody project called the “European Proteome Initiative,” which is organized by the German Society for Proteome Research (see ProteoMonitor 1/27/03), will be one “module” of HUPO’s antibody initiative. According to Marius Ueffing from the GSF Research Center in Munich, who heads the initiative, participants in a pilot project will start manufacturing antibodies at the University of Rijeka, Croatia, in early 2004. The aim is to produce 3,000 monoclonal antibodies within two years, with 20-40 antibodies to be raised against each protein target.

The exact targets, Ueffing told ProteoMonitor, will be determined later this year — depending on public interest, feasibility, and the interests of industry sponsors the initiative is hoping to attract. So far, it has seen interest but no financial commitment from a number of international companies, he said. Protein targets could be chosen from a specific tissue, such as brain; a disease area, like diabetes; or a functional area, such as kinases.

The antibodies will be produced at a brand-new production site at the University of Rijeka, built earlier this year specifically for the antibody initiative with funding from the Croatian government. The university will also be able to access the site for its own antibody production. A mouse facility is currently under construction.

The pilot project will initially require funding on the order of €1 million ($1.1 million). Part of it will come from the Croatian government; moreover, the organization will learn in July whether an application for a loan from the World Bank has been granted, and “private sources,” which Ueffing declined to reveal, might contribute as well. In total, the pilot project will cost €6-8 million . The initiative will also be seeking funding from the European Union’s 6th Framework Program. If EU funding of €5-10 million can be successfully raised, another production facility in Tartu, Estonia, will join the project, Ueffing said.

Academic researchers will receive the antibodies at cost, whereas industry users will have to pay licensing fees, unless they make a financial contribution to the initiative.

HUPO’s Human Brain Proteome Project — headed by Helmut Meyer from the University of Bochum and Joachim Klose from Charité in Berlin, who are involved in an ongoing German Brain Proteome Project — was officially launched at the meeting. Meyer told ProteoMonitor that while ideas for the project were discussed in Frankfurt, including how to divide up the brain, how to analyze the proteome of individual neurons, and how to make the data widely accessible, more concrete plans will be made at a follow-up meeting in D sseldorf, Germany, in early September.

— JK

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