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National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 12, 2009


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Emily Carlson
301-496-7301

NIGMS Invites Biologists to Join High-Throughput Structure Initiative

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, has announced plans for a new direction (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/News/Reports/council_concept_clearance_2009.htm) of the Protein Structure Initiative (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/PSI/), a structural genomics effort started in 2000. As suggested by its new name, PSI:Biology, the program will support research partnerships between groups of biologists and high-throughput structure determination centers to solve problems of biomedical importance.

"This is a natural evolution for the PSI," said NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D. "The previous phases of the initiative developed a very efficient high-throughput structure determination pipeline along with other technologies to study the relationships between protein sequences and structures. Now, we want to foster the use of these technologies to explore a broad range of important biomedical research questions."

To this end, PSI:Biology will include eight components that will function in a highly interactive network.

Beginning in April 2009, NIGMS plans to release requests for applications for the following five components, which will be awarded beginning in July 2010 with an estimated fiscal year 2010 total budget of $37 million or more:

  • High-throughput structure determination centers that will devote most of their efforts to solving community-nominated sets of protein structures, working with consortia of researchers outside of the centers and extending high-throughput technologies to increasingly complex structures;
  • Consortia of scientists that will work with the structure determination centers to solve biological problems that require the solution of many protein structures, benefit from high-throughput technologies and drive additional technology development;
  • Centers focused on determining membrane protein structures of great biological interest and on developing new methods to make these structures more amenable to high-throughput determination;
  • The PSI-SG Knowledgebase, which will continue to play an integral role in information dissemination, the coordination of activities across the research network and the solicitation of community-nominated targets; and
  • The PSI-SG Materials Repository, which will continue to serve the entire biomedical community by centralizing, maintaining, storing and distributing vectors and clones generated by PSI-supported researchers.

To continue the PSI emphasis on method and technology development and to offer ongoing opportunities for investigators to join the PSI:Biology network, NIGMS also plans to issue program announcements for R21, R01 and P01 awards to support:

  • Technology development for structure determination,
  • New methods for protein modeling, and
  • Additional partnerships with members of the broader community.

The PSI:Biology program was developed after extensive discussions with the research community about the future of the structural genomics field (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/News/Reports/FutureSGMeeting102008.htm) and how NIGMS can support its progress and after an assessment of the PSI (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/About/Council/PSIAssessment.htm). The plan was reviewed and approved by the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council during its meeting on January 23, 2009.

At the meeting, council member Steven McKnight of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas called PSI:Biology "a challenge to biologists to develop research programs that can take advantage of the fantastic resource for structure determination that NIGMS has put in place."

To date, PSI-supported researchers have generated more than 3,500 structures, many revealing novel patterns of folding. These findings as well as descriptions of new methods and technologies — some of which have been commercialized and are being used in labs around the world — have been reported in more than 1,200 research papers.

This rapid progress is documented in an interactive timeline (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/PSI/Timeline) developed by NIGMS to mark 50 years of advances in high-resolution protein structure determination. Beginning in 1958 with the publication of the first structure in atomic detail, the timeline charts more than 25 advances over five decades. The entries include brief descriptions, images and citations.

"We expect PSI:Biology to add to this rich history of protein structure determination by creating more opportunities for a broader range of scientists to collaborate and contribute new ideas," said Berg.

To discuss the PSI or the history of high-resolution protein structure determination with an NIGMS expert, please contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or info@nigms.nih.gov. For more information about the PSI, visit http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/PSI.

NIGMS is a part of NIH that supports basic research to increase our understanding of life processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. For more information on the Institute's research and training programs, see http://www.nigms.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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