Now that a map of the human genome is nearly complete, scientists face a new challenge - understanding the form and function of the proteins our genes produce.
As part of a nationwide research effort, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) has been awarded a five-year grant to participate in determining the three-dimensional structure of 2,000 proteins encoded by human DNA.
The grant is part of a new, ten-year initiative launched by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) - part of the National Institutes of Health that funds a significant amount of basic biomedical science.
On Sept. 26, NIGMS awarded nearly $150 million to seven projects around the country, including $24 million to the Joint Center for Structural Genomics (JCSG) - a consortium of California scientific research organizations that includes SSRL, the Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, San Diego.
The goal of the consortium is to develop high-throughput methods for protein production, crystallization and structure determination.
Beginning Oct. 1, SSRL will receive about $6 million over 5 years from JCSG to establish a structure determination center for the consortium.
Using the Stanford synchrotron's powerful X-ray crystallography instruments, SSRL researchers will obtain detailed, 3-D images of human and animal proteins at the molecular level with heretofore unprecedented speed.
"Synchrotron radiation research provides major opportunities for understanding the structure and functional relationships of genes," says Jonathan Dorfan, director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center that oversees SSRL.
"SSRL has a well-established and growing program which underpins the new development plans," he adds, and one that "leverages upon the significant investment of the Department of Energy which funds the operations of SSRL."