The future of proteomics  pg. 2

Lens: Should there be a “big science” project to move the field along?

White: I certainly believe that with the exception of a situation where a research program might require a very large, centralized capital expenditure or capability, a decentralized research program is going to be better for everybody -- one like we have today, where the government provides grant money to the individual researcher at the laboratories, rather than bringing the money into one big centralized center. I’m not sure that would work very well.

These research programs tend to have a boss and whatever that boss thinks is the right science, is the only science that gets done, as opposed to under the grant mentality, where there are a lot of ideas coming up from different places. I think you get better science. You get more diversity and you get more for your money.

Lens: What challenges must be overcome to achieve the fruits of proteomics?

Michael W. Hunkapiller, Ph.D.
Hunkapiller: A lot of the technology efforts up until now have been to design systems that allow people to study an individual out of an entire population. The human genome project was to do that essentially.

One of the challenges now is to develop tools that go beyond just looking at the overall blueprint. Scientists now want to look at the individual differences among large populations of individuals to help identify changes that might lead to disease or to identify why some individuals remain healthy. The tools that are required to look at those differences across a large number of individuals are pretty substantial, as opposed to tools used to decipher the basic blueprint of life.

The main issue is reducing the cost of the technologies to a level that is affordable to perform these studies on a large number of people. The technologies that will allow large-scale studies are available, but they are currently somewhat cost prohibitive. I think the same issue applies to the proteomics industry.

On top of that, there is the challenge of making the technology cost effective to do a complex study of both protein structure and function in a broad survey sense, which has not been done yet. It requires development on the one hand, and invention on the other. Science and technology have a good way of playing off of each other, and coming up with solutions to these kinds of challenges.

Lens: If Congress, in an attempt to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals, makes it easier for generic drugs to get to market, would this have an impact on drug discovery?

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