Scripps research-based center awarded more than $50 million by NIH to solve protein structures


A consortium of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute and several other California institutions has been awarded a $52.7 million grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The grant is part of the second phase of a $600 million national effort called the Protein Structure Initiative that ultimately seeks to find the three-dimensional shapes of all types of proteins. This structural information will help reveal the roles that proteins play in health and disease and will help point the way to designing new medicines.

The five-year grant will fund the Joint Center for Structural Genomics (JCSG), a multi-institutional consortium of laboratories in La Jolla and Palo Alto, California, which is based at The Scripps Research Institute and was established five years ago with a prior NIH Protein Structure Initiative/NIGMS grant designed to develop the technology and methods needed to solve protein structures using high-throughput technology. Under the previous award, the JCSG found ways to turn large numbers of DNA sequences into three-dimensional structures and built a pipeline that could be scaled up for a production center.

The JCSG has been solving about 100 structures a year, and this output should increase significantly. As one of ten new research centers established nationwide under the Protein Structure Initiative, the JCSG will be one of only four centers that was selected to advance from the pilot stage to become a large-scale production center. The JCSG will continue to develop methodologies but will focus on determining a large number of high-resolution structures of biological molecules.

"The JCSG investigators have incorporated new methods and technologies into an effective robotic pipeline for producing proteins and determining structures. Their efforts will advance the goals of the Protein Structure Initiative and lead to many benefits for the scientific community," said John Norvell, Ph.D., director of the Protein Structure Initiative.

The researchers also will aim to tackle more challenging structures, such as large protein assemblies, proteins from eukaryotic organisms and membrane proteins, all of which have traditionally been difficult to solve. The JCSG will also focus on proteins that are part of what JCSG Director Ian Wilson, D.Phil., D.Sc., terms the "central machinery of life" -- the several thousand proteins that are essential for all organisms, many of which have implications for human health and disease.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to make great progress towards understanding how all organisms have evolved and function," says Professor Wilson, who is a member of the Department of Molecular Biology and Scripps Research's Skaggs Institute For Chemical Biology.

Along with Wilson and his colleagues at Scripps Research, the JCSG includes researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the Burnham Institute, the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, Stanford University, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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