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St. Jude Hiring Proteomic Staff to Meet Anticipated Downstream Demand from Genomic Studies

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This story originally ran on May. 3.

In order to leverage an anticipated tide of genomic information, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has begun a search to add to its proteomics staff.

The new hire will join the proteomics mass spectrometry core facility housed in the Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, a department within St. Jude, in order to "expand our base of knowledge in the area and facilitate collaborations with other researchers" at St. Jude, Clayton Naeve, vice president and chief information office at the hospital and director of the Hartwell Center, told ProteoMonitor.

While the proteomics/mass spectrometry shared resource has been in existence for "many years," mounting research at the hospital that is predominantly proteomics-based has led to the need to beef up the staff, Naeve said.

In particular, genomic work being conducted at St. Jude is anticipated to increase demand for proteomics resources. Within the Hartwell Center is the high-throughput DNA sequencing and genotyping laboratory, which, according to the center's website, has sequenced more than 880,000 DNA templates producing more than 410 million base pairs of DNA sequence data.

On a monthly basis, the lab generates 10 million base pairs for St. Jude research programs.

In January, the hospital also launched a pediatric cancer genome project in collaboration with Washington University to sequence the genomes of more than 600 samples of childhood cancer (See ProteoMonitor's sister publication In Sequence 01/26/10)

All of that is expected to result in a flood of genomic data, and eventually, the hospital is "going to have to correlate all of that information with what's going on in the protein level," said Andy High, a scientist at the Hartwell Center who directs the proteomics/mass spec lab.

The hiring effort is recognition that "the future's going to involve much more proteomics than we currently have capacity for," Naeve added.

In the years since the shared resource was founded, research has progressed from identifying and amassing lists of proteins to investigating how proteins change within a biological system. The ideal candidate, High said, "would have a strong background in quantitative proteomics and technique development that rounds out what we have with the core facility right now."

In addition, the hospital is looking for expertise in post-translation modifications.

"It's no longer just phosphorylation," High said. "We have a lot of investigators who are interested in ubiquitination — how it's working, what it's attaching to," as well as acetylation and methylation.

Though much of the current proteomics work at the hospital focuses on basic research such as the investigation of disease pathways and signaling, St. Jude is open to a candidate whose experience has had more of a clinical bent.

St. Jude, based in Memphis, Tenn., has a faculty of about 200, with roughly half doing basic science and the other half involved in clinical research. Many have a foot in both areas, Naeve said.

The proteomics lab currently has a staff of seven, and underwent an expansion last year that doubled its size, Naeve said, though he didn't have an exact figure on its size. In addition, laboratory space adjacent to the proteomics lab is "in escrow at the moment" and will be used for new faculty.

The facility is equipped with six mass specs and is awaiting shipment of an LTQ Orbitrap Velos from Thermo Fisher Scientific. Whoever is hired would probably have additional instrumentation requests "and that would be provided as part of their start-up package," Naeve said.