(La Jolla, CA, July 20, 2006) A team of researchers, led by Dr. Adam Godzik at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, is designing tools to accelerate the interpretation, and potential use of, information gleaned from the human genome project. Armed with $2.1 million over the next three years, this consortium, known as the Joint Center for Molecular Modeling, will support scientists from Burnham and UCSD's Computer Science and Engineering department as they collaborate to develop innovative software for improving the quality of predictions of three-dimensional protein structures from raw genetic code. These new tools will be made available to researchers worldwide through open-source databases and may be applied ultimately in the design of smarter drugs.
Researchers are sequencing millions of genes per year in different genomic projects. Solving the structures of the protein products of these genes proceeds at a slower pace of between 3,000 and 5,000 per year. Using the structures of proteins that have already been solved, Dr. Godzik and co-principal investigators Drs. Pavel Pevzner, Yuzhen Ye and Piotr Cieplak will develop novel ways to extract rules and trends of how structures change and evolve. They will use these tools to predict how, for instance, a human protein would differ from its counterpart in mice or bacteria.
"Protein structures can be solved experimentally in a couple of months, sometimes weeks," said Dr. Godzik. "Scientists around the world have already solved tens of thousands of them. Structures of many proteins can also be predicted on a computer in a matter of minutes, but the quality of such models is generally so poor that they are not useful in many applications, such as drug design. We have developed tools that allow us to learn from structures already solved and apply that knowledge to improve predicted structures of new proteins. This funding from the National Institutes of Health makes it possible for us
Contact: Nancy Beddingfield