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Let them eat cake!

Who ever said you can’t have cake at 8 in the morning never heard of the chromosome-centric human proteome project. Yesterday morning a group of researchers from all around the globe gathered at Hynes Convention Center in Boston to kick-off of the project, which aims to unearth all the proteins encoded by our DNA, one chromosome at a time. And they had cake to celebrate with.

Ten years ago a similar group of researchers unveiled the human genome after a decade of work. But that genome is only the blueprint for what happens inside the body. The proteins encoded by those genes are the building materials and C-HPP is taking an organized, internationally collaborative approach to naming them all.

Each of the 24 chromosomes in the human body has been assigned a research team from one of 16 countries. The reasons behind team selection were varied, said Bill Hancock, the Northeastern Professor co-chairing the initiative. In the case of Chromosome 8, China got it because 8 is a lucky number in that country. China also got the biggest chromosome carrying the most genetic information, because that country does the majority of the world’s gene sequencing. Hancock’s team is pursuing Chromosome 17 because it is home to The ERB-2 gene, which is responsible for many types of cancer. Hancock has been looking at the ERB-2 proteome since his days as an industry researcher at Genentech.

The celebration included a host of speakers, from principle investigators to industry providers.

Gil Omenn, chair of the larger Human Proteome Project, which has several initiatives like the C-HPP, called the it a “prodigious development” for the organization.

Henry Rodriguez of the National Cancer Institute said the ten-year endeavor could be summed up in two words: “Awesome” and “elegant.”

Aaron Hudson from ASBI said he preferred to address the group “as a global citizen who sees the potential of the C-HPP and is full of hope for the health and well being of nations, my grandchildren, and scientific collaboration across nations,” pointing out that political disparities between countries like the US and Iran would not get in the way of the international effort.

Young-Ki Paik of Korea chairs the initiative and called the celebration an historic moment for filling out the parts list of human genetics.

As the group of speakers and principle investigators gathered for a photo-op and cake cutting, I overheard one member say “This is the parts list right here!”


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