The National Institutes of Health last week issued as part of the Protein Capture Program a solicitation for grant applications for improved approaches to producing protein affinity reagents.
The initiative, which in 2011 aims to make three to five awards totaling $5 million, will focus on technologies that have shown proof of principle but need additional funds to demonstrate scalability and which could be ready for proteome-scale research projects within three to five years.
Obtaining high-quality antibodies has been an issue for proteomics researchers for some time. While humans have some 20,000 protein-coding genes, commercial antibodies exist for fewer than half of them. Additionally, many of these antibodies are of poor quality, lacking the specificity often presumed by the scientists using them.
As Sandra Orchard, senior scientific database curator at the European Bioinformatics Institute, told ProteoMonitor in July, "People have wasted an awful lot of money over the years buying poor quality [affinity] reagents and coming up with misleading data because of it. In many, many cases there has not been enough data made available with the [affinity reagent] – be it a commercial product or a donated product – for people to make a full assessment of how valuable a resource it is." (PM 07/16/2010)
According to the NIH solicitation, available here, developing a high-quality antibody currently costs between $5,000 and $15,000 and takes between three and nine months. The goal of the program is to reduce these time and cost figures to facilitate the Protein Capture Program's long-term goal of developing a comprehensive and broadly available resource of renewable affinity reagents to all human proteins.
In addition to antibodies, technologies for developing reagents like aptamers, synthesized amino acid peptides, and protein scaffolds will be considered. Participants will need to determine the affinity and specificity of any developed reagents as well as validate them for at least one specific end use.
Applicants may request up to $1 million in direct costs per year.