BEIJING—Hoping to create an encyclopedia of proteins in the human body, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology today kicked off a $40 million effort to map the human proteome—the full complement of proteins—of 10 major organs and tissues, including the heart and liver, in healthy and diseased states.
Qin Jun, director of the Beijing Proteome Research Center, which will oversee the effort, compares the quest to the gargantuan effort of mapping the human genome. Whereas genomes provide the “code of life,” proteins execute the orders of life, he says. “Proteins are the workhorses in the cell, and are more directly related to disease and human function” than genomes, he says. Chinese researchers contributed just 1% of data to the global Human Genome Project, but Qin hopes China can play a more significant role in the ongoing Human Proteome Project, a global effort that published a draft map of the human proteome online in Nature on 28 May. The goal, he says, is for China to eventually contribute “at least 30% of data” to the international effort.
China is well positioned to take advantage of “the start of the era of big data and bioinformatics,” says He Fuchu, chief scientist of the Beijing Proteome Research Center. The massive proteome effort, which He is leading, will run 3 to 5 years and involve about 200 researchers at 40 labs nationwide, he says.
Construction is under way on two major supporting research facilities in Beijing. The $200 million National Core Facility for Protein Sciences, nicknamed PHOENIX, will house 25 mass spectrometers and have the capacity to sequence 10 proteomes per day, and is scheduled to launch as early as mid-2015. Also expected to open next year is a bioinformatics hub, the National Center for Biomedical Big Data.