|Next generation toolbox for European genomic research
MolTools: advanced molecular tools for array-based analyses of genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes and cells
A new technology-based project aims to harness the full medical potential of the human genome sequence by developing the next generation of ultra-sensitive tools capable of discerning the millions of tiny variations that exist between individual genomes.
The MolTools consortium, comprising 12 leading European academic groups, four biotech SMEs and one US laboratory, is producing a set of radically new array-based tools that will enable functional analyses of individual genomes and proteomes, right down to the level of single DNA, RNA and protein molecules within cells.
The limitations of current technology – including cost and insufficient throughput and sensitivity – make it difficult to analyse genome variation between humans, or between different somatic cells within one individual. Such factors are vital in establishing the link between genetic profiles and diseases such as cancer.
The new generation microarrays will, for example, be able to monitor genomes in action by measuring gene expression levels and correlating the resulting molecular profiles to a given disease state. These, and other array-based technologies making up the new ‘genomic toolbox’, will have an important impact on the development of diagnostic tools for clinical use.
“MolTools will coordinate efforts to bring about the necessary tools for understanding the genome and its functions, something that is of critical importance for scientific progress and its commercial applications,” says the project’s coordinator, Ulf Landegren, from Uppsala University in Sweden.
The dissemination of its developed techniques is a central element in the MolTools project. A practical course, ‘Advanced techniques in molecular medicine’, was given jointly by MolTools and EMBO in Uppsala in June 2004. Students from all over Europe participated in the one-week training course. MolTools also contributed to an ESF workshop entitled ‘Ligand binding molecules against the human proteome’, in Cambridge in early September. The workshop explored the possibility of initiating an international effort to establish a comprehensive, characterised and standardised collection of tools for monitoring protein expression and determining protein function.
In addition to its ambitious scientific and technological goals, the MolTools project also addresses one of Europe's main challenges in biotechnology: translating technological innovations into commercially successful products. The consortium has a strong participation by SMEs and a new company, Olink, is being created by MolTools partners.
Ulf Landegren (email@example.com)
EU contribution: €9 million
Duration: 3 years