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PNNL wins record $10.2 million NIH grant for proteomics center

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October 07, 2003 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has won a five-year, $10.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support a center for basic research in proteomics, PNNL announced today. It is the largest NIH grant in the Department of Energy lab's 38-year history.

The grant designates PNNL as an NIH research resource center and will establish PNNL as a base for proteomics research worldwide. It will fund the development of advanced instrumentation for studying the large and complex protein sets that constitute biological systems which allow all living things to function. The ability to measure proteins, especially those present in trace amounts, and to observe changes in them is the key to understanding molecular-level cell function and disease progression, treatment and prevention.

"The award will enable PNNL staff to collaborate on important biomedical projects with top NIH-supported researchers," said Dick Smith, a Battelle Fellow at PNNL and director of the resource center housed at the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

"Our new proteomics resource center is built upon unique capabilities that have been developed over the past decade at PNNL" for DOE-supported proteomics research in microbial studies, Smith said. The NIH grant enables PNNL to expand its investigations into more complex mammalian systems relevant to human diseases.

Center capabilities include automated ultra-high resolution mass spectrometers and separation systems for rapid and extremely sensitive characterization of the large, complex and continuously changing protein groups that make an organism and dictate its response and adaptation to its environment. PNNL advances have allowed the study of ever smaller biological samples, and faster, more complete characterization of proteins than ever before. The resource center will work to further increase the speed and sensitivity of proteome measurements, with the aim of allowing studies of the proteins in even a single cell.

"Proteomic studies are anticipated to shed new light on how cells work at a fundamental level and provide the basic information on such important biomedical problems as how proteins interact," Smith said. "This will help determine which proteins are associated with specific diseases and can potentially be targeted by new drugs."

What's more, "the ability to analyze the complex sets of very low level proteins in blood with much greater sensitivity along with the ability to analyze many samples, provides the basis for developing new biomarkers for the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer and many other diseases."

Besides instrumentation, the grant will support improved computational and bioinformatics tools for extracting and visualizing and ultimately understanding the data produced in the resource center, Smith said. The research creates quantities of data that in many cases can be analyzed only with computer programs developed specifically for that purpose. Like the current DOE-supported work on microbes, the resource center will also integrate proteomics data with other measurements to better understand the operation of entire biological systems at the molecular level.

Studies already are lined up with researchers from Stanford University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Oregon Health and Science University, the University of Colorado and the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, Calif. Smith said the resource center also will support the dissemination of information on technologies developed for proteomics research and will educate the scientific community in their use.

Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, Proteomics

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