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For Networkers and New Ideas: Proteome Society Coming Soon to a City Near You

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Given the steadily rising interest in proteomics on the part of the life science community, it may not be surprising that a number of professional scientific societies have tried to broaden their appeal to scientists using such techniques as 2D gels and mass spectrometry in their studies of proteins. The Protein Society, the Electrophoresis Society, and even a group of scientists at NIH have decided that proteomics represents a discipline too hot to ignore.

But the Proteome Society, a 927 member organization based outside San Francisco in Marin County, may be the first society catering only to proteomics to emerge without a large supporting organization to back it up. And unlike HUPO, which has ambitions to lead large-scale projects in proteomics, the Proteome Society has more humble aims: to provide a forum for researchers in their home cities to network and learn how others from both near and far are delving into proteomics.

The impetus for the Proteome Society comes from a surprising source: a sales rep for Sequenom, a San Diego-based discovery genetics company focused on SNP genotyping. Cara Wykowski, the founder of the Proteome Society, has worked out of the Bay Area for the last 15 years, but the chemist-turned sales rep first took an interest in proteomics in 1995, when she sold 2D gel equipment for Hoefer Pharmacia Biotech, now a part of Amersham Biosciences.

At the time, Wykowski, who said she’s “passionate about bringing people together,” organized meetings under the name of the 2D Gel Club to bring scientists together in informal question and answer sessions to share their research and help her learn how to better serve her customers. The presentations, then held in classrooms at universities in the Bay Area, quickly expanded beyond discussions of just 2D gels, however, and Wykowski realized she was on to something big. “I became very excited because I saw it as an even bigger project, or having an even bigger scope than the genomics world,” she said.

Since then, the Proteome Society has grown to include almost a thousand members from 25 countries, Wykowski said, and earlier this month held its first meeting on the East Coast, at the Whitehead Institute in Boston, with 70 attendees. In addition to the Bay Area, the society hosted speaker and poster presentations of similar size over the past year in Seattle and San Diego.

While anyone — even non-members — can ask to present their research at society meetings, Wykowski said the society’s 11-member scientific advisory board, which includes researchers such as Josh LaBaer and John Yates, votes to decide who will fill the allotted time for the meeting. “It’s very democratic [as to] who gets selected,” she said, “so we’ve removed the political element.”

Members, for their part, receive notification of upcoming meetings and can post job announcements on the organization’s website, www.proteome.org. In addition, the society plans to launch an online discussion forum in June that will be open only to members, Wykowski said.

The society currently has a core of about 20 volunteers who help with day-to-day activities. Revenue comes from corporate sponsors, who can place their logos on the society’s website.

— JSM

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