UMASS MEDICAL SCHOOL AND MBI  TEAM UP ON PROTEOMICS 

May 23, 2005 


WORCESTER, Mass.-  With so much of basic biomedical research and drug development efforts now dependent upon sophisticated technology to analyze, identify and quantify materials at the molecular level, the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) are working together to offer enhanced proteomic and bioinformatics resources to the region's burgeoning academic and commercial research laboratories.
 
The UMMS Proteomic Consortium brings together state-of-the-art scientific and technological resources, through which scientists can analyze the functions and interactions of proteins produced in cells. The consortium fills an important gap left open last year by Charles River Proteomics, a private company that operated a commercial protein processing facility, which decided to withdraw from the proteomics market nationally and close its Worcester location.

"This is a very important initiative because it will serve the university community and add to the critical mass of biomedical resources in this area that are fueling the growth of a vital sector of our regional economy," said C. Robert Matthews, PhD, the Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professor and chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, whose department is now home to the Proteomics Consortium. "If we are successful, this consortium may become a catalyst for the development of academic/industrial partnerships that benefit the entire Commonwealth."

Proteins are complex molecules that are produced in every cell of the body. They regulate biologic functions, give structure to cellular components and send signals within and between cells. There are thousands of active proteins in every cell, many of which remain poorly understood.  So researchers studying which proteins are over-expressed in a cancer cell, for example, could work with the UMMS Proteomic Consortium to identify what proteins are present and measure the level of protein expression and post-translational modification in those samples.  The consortium faculty can also offer expert advice and analysis of experimental procedures to help researchers make more effective use of proteomics. 

Before it announced plans to close its Worcester facility, Charles River Proteomic Services offered similar resources to many of the academic and commercial scientists in the region. "It would have been a tremendous loss for the region if some of these services left," said Sun W. "Sunny" Tam, PhD, who directed a group at the Charles River Proteomic facility and is now a research associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMMS. "The medical school saw our group as an important resource and an opportunity to augment the proteomics services they already had on campus."

UMMS acquired some sophisticated protein fractionation and analysis equipment from Charles River and brought it to the school's Shrewsbury campus. Dr. Tam, and his associate Douglas A. Hinerfeld, PhD, (now a research assistant professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology) left the company and joined the faculty of the Medical School. They joined forces with research assistant professors of biochemistry &
molecular pharmacology,  John D. Leszyk, PhD,  and James E. Evans,  MS,  who have run independent proteomics analysis facilities using mass spectrometry  at UMMS  for many years.  Their combined resources will continue to serve the UMMS faculty, and will operate on a fee-for-service basis for other institutions, both academic and commercial.  "The combination of state-of-the-art protein fractionation services and our well established mass spectrometry capabilities makes this consortium a real powerhouse for proteomics," Dr. Leszyk said.

MBI's role in the consortium is to offer the bioinformatics capability (biocomputing resources) that is required to sift through and interpret the huge amounts of data generated by proteomic analysis. MBI, which operates a number of programs and a business incubator facility to support start-up and emerging biomedical companies in Central Massachusetts, has a state-of-the-art  computing center equipped with an IBM eSeries cluster. "For several years it has been recognized that an internally managed Biocomputing Center would be a valuable tool and resource for the companies in the incubator," said Joseph Gormley, acting director of informatics and computing resources  at MBI. "We're offering access to computing power and informatics support that most new companies would find too costly to have in-house. Now, our alliance with UMMS to offer these services through the Proteomics Consortium brings together two important resources that will help support our existing companies and attract others to the region."

# # #
 
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $173 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit  www.umassmed.edu.


Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) is a private non-profit corporation created to support the growth and expansion of biotechnology, medical device and informatics related companies throughout the region, enhancing the status of Massachusetts as a world leader in the medical industry. For more information visit  www.massbiomed.org.


Contact: Michael Cohen
508.856.2000
Michael.Cohen@umassmed.edu