NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative Announces New Members

Release Date:
Alison Davis, NIGMS

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) welcomes two new members to the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), expanding the Institute's support in the area of structural genomics research. Seven teams of scientists received awards for research centers in September 2000, and annual NIGMS funding for the initiative exceeds $40 million.

NIGMS is the world's single largest funder of research in structural genomics, a field dedicated to piecing together the 3-D structures of proteins using computational analyses of genome sequence data. Such structural data gives scientists the ability to better understand the function of proteins, our bodies' true workhorses. Visualizing protein structure also helps researchers tailor the design of new therapeutic drugs to treat a host of diseases.

The NIGMS PSI has been in operation for a year, and the effort consists of two phases. In the initial pilot phase, teams of scientists across the country are hammering out workable techniques to streamline and automate the multi-step process of obtaining protein structure data. The subsequent full-scale production phase will be devoted to researchers deriving the structures as rapidly as possible--leading to a remarkable 10,000 structures in 10 years.

"The NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative aims to streamline and automate structural determination methods, with the ultimate goal of teaching us fundamental lessons about biology," said Dr. John Norvell, who directs the initiative. "We welcome these two new research centers and expect they will bring important new methodologies and protein structure diversity."

The two new awards, totaling $8.8 million for the first year of funding, have been made to:

  • University of Washington (Wim G. J. Hol, Ph.D., principal investigator)--$4.4 million for the first of 4 years of funding provided to the Structural Genomics of Pathogenic Protozoa Consortium to develop new methods and technologies for obtaining protein structures from organisms known as protozoans, many species of which cause deadly diseases such as sleeping sickness, malaria, and Chagas' disease.

  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (John L. Markley, Ph.D., principal investigator)--$4.4 million for the first of 4 years of funding provided to the Center for Eukaryotic Structural Genomics to develop high-throughput methods for protein production, characterization and structure determination from Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant that is frequently used in laboratory research and that has many genes in common with humans and animals, including genes linked to disease.

For more information on the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative in structural genomics, consult the NIGMS Web site at

For a listing of current awardees, see