Johns Hopkins has won a seven-year $18 million contract from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to create one of 10 centers nationwide dedicated to the study and application of proteomics.
The Johns Hopkins NHLBI Proteomics Center builds on resources provided by Hopkins' Institute for Cell Engineering, a shared instrumentation grant from the National Institutes of Health, and will fund additional staff and faculty to support more than a dozen technology and biology projects. The center's work, conducted by Hopkins basic scientists, clinicians and technology leaders, will focus on understanding the functions of proteins in the development of cells, tissues and organisms and in normal and disease processes.
"Proteomics is central to the next phase of biological research, to putting meat on the bone of the Human Genome Project," says Gerald Hart, director of Biological Chemistry in the School of Medicine's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences and co-principal investigator of the center. "This center will make Johns Hopkins a major player in the field of proteomics."
The Hopkins effort recognizes that understanding proteins' complex roles and functions in cells requires not just a "roll call" of proteins but knowledge of which ones are working at a particular time in a certain cell or part of a cell, says the contract's principal investigator, Eduardo Marban, director of Hopkins' Institute for Molecular Cardiology.
"We're defining proteomics more broadly than simply surveying cells and creating databases of proteins that are present. Developing new protein detection methods is as important as gathering new biological information," he adds.
The center's major research efforts include the Technological Implementation and Coordination Core, or TICC, which will be directed by Robert Cole and will incorporate and apply new technologies and manage the data and educational components of the center.
"The next era of biomedical advance is going to come from collaborations between basic researchers and technology experts," says Edward D. Miller, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Hopkins has it all--major technological innovators and excellent clinical and basic researchers and researchers-in-training. This center takes advantage of all the Hopkins community has to offer and is going to create important new jobs as well."
The six biological proteomics projects are all tied to ischemia (loss of blood flow) and hypoxia (loss of oxygen) and how cells and tissues, via proteins, adapt or succumb to the stresses they present. The technology projects include developing techniques to study modification of proteins by sugar and phosphate and creating new mass spectrometry methods and instrumentation. A third major focus of technology development is in informatics and modeling of a cell's stockroom of proteins and changes in that "proteome."