NIGMS Announces PSI Molecular Modeling Centers

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Two newly funded molecular modeling centers will move the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) closer to its long-range goal of making it easy to determine the shapes of proteins from genetic sequence information. The centers will develop innovative computational methods for reliably predicting the three-dimensional structures of proteins. Ultimately, the computer models will cut the time and cost of protein structure determination and aid the drug discovery process.

The PSI molecular modeling centers are led by Roland Dunbrack, Ph.D., of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa.; and Adam Godzik, Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif. Each center will receive about $2.1 million over three years. They join 10 other PSI centers focused on experimentally determining the structures of a wide range of proteins via high-throughput methods.  

“The PSI strives to develop more than a catalog of protein structures,” says John Norvell, Ph.D., director of the NIGMS initiative. “We want to make it possible for researchers to determine the shape of most proteins. The new molecular modeling centers will give us key tools to achieve this goal.”

Godzik’s Joint Center for Molecular Modeling includes scientists from the Burnham Institute and the University of California, San Diego. The researchers will collaborate to build software programs that can accurately predict the structures of proteins distantly related to ones with known structures. 

Dunbrack’s modeling center brings together a team of researchers to improve the modeling accuracy of proteins both closely and distantly related to proteins with known structures. The scientists will validate their models by using proteins whose structures have been determined experimentally by the other PSI centers. Then, the team will apply the modeling methods to proteins implicated in the development of cancer as well as proteins that may serve as drug targets for new cancer treatments.