NIGMS Announces Initiative on Structural Genomics

Release Date:
John C. Norvell, Ph.D. , NIGMS
(301) 594-0533

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NIGMS announces its "Protein Structure Initiative," an effort designed to organize a cooperative, large-scale effort in the emergent field of structural genomics.

The initiative is composed of two program announcements (PAs) and a request for applications (RFA), all of which are published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. These announcements resulted in part from recommendations made at three NIGMS-sponsored workshops focused on structural genomics. Reports from these workshops, which were held in 1998 and 1999, are available online at /Initiatives/PSI.

The field of structural genomics arose out of a desire of scientists to obtain structural data, and eventually functional information, about all known proteins based on the identification of protein families. The explosion of genetic sequences from the Human Genome Project and a number of technical advances in structure determination have made such an effort possible.

The two PAs provide funds for researchers to develop new methods and technologies to enhance the efficiency of structure determination by developing high-throughput approaches. The primary techniques used in the field are X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Examples of useful new technologies include an improved method for growing crystals, a new system to select target molecules, and the use of robotics for faster and less costly data collection. These PAs are ongoing and provide support for individual research grants, program projects, and small business research grants. The application submission dates are identical to those for the general research programs.

The RFA was issued in 1999 and again in 2000, but will not be reissued. Seven awards were made in response to the initial announcement and reviews are underway for the second announcement. This program supports research centers that will serve as pilots to examine the best approach for developing subsequent integrated, large-scale research networks in structural genomics. These research centers should include all the constituent tasks of structural genomics, such as protein family classification, target selection, sample preparation, structure determination by X-ray crystallography and/or NMR spectroscopy, and data analyses. They should test strategies for large-scale high-throughput operation. NIGMS may fund three to six such projects, each costing up to $3 million annually (direct costs).

Full-text versions of the announcements, which include further details about the programs, eligibility requirements, and application procedures, are available at the URLs below.

Questions about the Protein Structure Initiative should be directed to:

John C. Norvell, Ph.D.
Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
45 Center Drive, Room 2AS.13B
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200