BioWorld International Correspondent

Uppsala University in Sweden is coordinating a €9 million project, funded under the European Union's 6th Framework Program, which aims to develop new tools and techniques for large-scale analysis of genomes, transcriptomes and proteomes.

Ulf Landegren of the university's Rudbeck Laboratory is team leader of the project, called MolTools. Its aim, he told BioWorld International, is to enable researchers to perform genome- and proteome-wide analyses of both patients and model organisms at low cost but with high levels of specificity and sensitivity.

The MolTools consortium includes 18 university research labs and biotechnology companies based in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Belgium, Finland, Estonia, Denmark and the United States, as well as Sweden. George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, is part of the consortium, as are companies such as Methixis Genomics NV, of Ghent, Belgium; Febit AG, of Mannheim, Germany; Oxford Gene Technologies Ltd., of Oxford, UK; Fermentas UAB, of Vilnius, Lithuania; and mic AB, of Uppsala. Other ventures could be established during the course of the project.

"My group is trying to get something together based on some of the things we are doing," Landegren said.

The MolTools work program comprises six packages. They include establishing genome sequencing methods costing around $1,000 per genome and developing low-cost, high-throughput genotyping methods for detecting associations between disease phenotypes and genetic markers. Gene expression analysis is a third focus.

"It is our firm conviction that the gene expression analyses that are possible today only capture a small fraction of the information available from transcription," Landegren said. The other core areas include highly parallel proteome analysis, detection of events such as protein-protein interactions at the single-molecule level, and the development of arrays to support functional assays of large numbers of cells in parallel.

Many of the groups involved have expertise in those areas, Landegren said. "A common denominator for many of us is tumor biology," he added. A number of the participants were involved in the early stages of microarray research during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Landegren said, although the focus moved to the U.S. once that technology entered its commercialization phase. The present initiative is part of Europe's effort to ensure that its biotechnology industry does not miss out on the next wave of innovation in molecular biology. The consortium is assembling in Uppsala early next month for a two-day public symposium that will kick-start the project.

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