Second International Structural Genomics Meeting Addresses Issues and Plans a Permanent International Organization


The meeting was held April 4-6, 2001, at Airlie House in Warrenton, Virginia. These meetings are addressing the major policy issues surrounding structural genomics programs around the world. The participants include representatives of the government agencies and private sector organizations in the U.S., Asia, and Europe that are funding structural genomics and of the major laboratories involved in the projects.

The field of structural genomics seeks high throughput inexpensive determination of the structures of large numbers of proteins using x-ray crystallography at synchrotrons as well as nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry and other techniques. The increasing numbers of complete genome sequences becoming available makes it now essential to be able to determine the structures of proteins coded for by these genomes. Structural genomics was formally initiated at a meeting organized by BER’s Structural Biology Center at Argonne National Laboratory in January 1998.

The participants adopted a statement of “Agreed Principles and Procedures.” This document states the goals of structural genomics, outlines the new methods that need to be developed to achieve the goals, identifies issues of cooperation among the laboratories and among the agencies, addresses publication of the new structures achieved in structural genomics projects, and discusses intellectual property rights. The latter two issues are proving especially complicated, as some participants strongly favor immediate publication of structures once they are refined, while others are equally concerned with protecting potential patent rights that would in certain countries be compromised by publication of the structures.

The group decided to develop a more formal structure by forming an international organization for structural genomics. The organization would coordinate application of resources and rapid dissemination of new methodologies and results, promote access to unique resources such as synchrotrons and high field nuclear magnetic resonance facilities, and serve as a forum for developing policies, standards, and data formats for structural genomics worldwide. An Executive Committee was elected to develop the new organization. Tom Terwilliger of DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory was chosen to represent the United States, along with scientists from Japan and Germany representing their parts of the world. The participants also decided to hold the next meeting in Berlin, Germany, in October 2002.