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Brussels to fund large-scale genomic and proteomic projects


Gearing up for a new era of ‘post-genomics’ research, the European Union (EU) announced last week that it will channel €39.4 million (US $35 million) into research projects to scrutinize the genomes of mutant mice, examine the structures of disease-related proteins, and study the genetics of human twins.

European Commission’s Research website

The twins study will network all of Europe’s major ‘twins registry’ databases—encompassing more than 800,000 twins—in an effort to pinpoint the genetic origins of numerous diseases, including some types of cardiovascular disease. Towards that goal, scientists will use new statistical techniques and high-throughput molecular technologies to compare variations in the human genome sequence.

The European Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin, said the three major projects will jump-start the planned €2.2 billion (US $1.9 billion) ‘Genomics Research for Human Health’ program that will be part of the EU’s next four-year research plan, called Sixth Framework Programme. Under that program, scientists across Europe will be eligible to apply for grants. “It is vital for Europe to play a leading role in genomic research and biotechnology, the new frontier of the 21st century,” Busquin said in a statement.

Aside from the twins project, the EU is putting together a new research effort called EUMORPHIA that will organize laboratories in nine European countries to screen new mouse mutants in a systematic manner for clues to genetic disease. The effort aims to identify more mouse models for human diseases and also investigate the underlying genetic basis of the diseases.

A third EU initiative, led by scientists at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Strasbourg University in France, will help 17 European laboratories better coordinate their research on the three-dimensional structures of proteins related to common human diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The initiative, called Structural Proteomics in Europe, or SPINE, will bring together some of the “top European structural biology groups in an unprecedented collaborative effort to develop new methods and technologies driven by the shared scientific focus on a set of targets selected to be of direct relevance to human health and disease,” according to the research directorate.

The genomics projects’ overall goal, said Busquin, is to better coordinate the sometimes-duplicative European research efforts “to meet scientific challenges that go beyond the capacities of individual countries.”

For more information on the projects visit

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“European drive for post-genomic research: European Commission awards €39.4 million to three large-scale projects.” Press release, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium (March 18, 2002).

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