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Major new initiative to resolve structure of protein families

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has launched the "Protein Structure Initiative" with the intent to determine the form and function of thousands of proteins over the next decade. The initial phase of this initiative has started with the awarding of seven new grants, each totaling around $4 million for the first year, including one to Sung-Hou Kim, a chemist who heads the Structural Biology Department of the Physical Biosciences Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

"This project can be viewed as an inventory of all the protein structure families that exist in nature," said Dr. Marvin Cassman, NIGMS Director, in announcing the grants. "We expect that this effort will yield major biological findings that will improve our understanding of health and disease."

Cassman said his agency, which is one of the components of the National Institutes of Health, expects to spend approximately $150 million on these inaugural seven grants over the next five years. This would make NIGMS the single largest funding agency of structural genomics, the emerging scientific field in which the identification of gene-coding DNA sequences are combined with 3-D structural images to determine protein functions.

Said John Norvell, director of the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative, "These research centers are true pilots. Each will include every experimental and computational task of structural genomics and will develop strategies for use in the subsequent large-scale research networks. By the fifth year of the award, we expect each pilot center to reach a production level of 100 to 200 protein structures annually, which is significantly greater than the current rate of protein structure determination."

Sung-Hou Kim, who in addition to his Berkeley Lab appointment is also a professor with the College of Chemistry at the University of California's Berkeley campus, is a world authority
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
26-Sep-2000


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