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A Canada-wide technology platform for mapping the human interactome

Montral, June 23, 2009 On June 18, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced the award of $9.16 million for the creation of a national technology platform aimed at mapping the human interactome. This national platform, headed by Dr. Benoit Coulombe from the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montral (IRCM), will not only provide Canadian researchers with new state-of-the-art equipment in proteomics, functional genomics and bioinformatics, but also bring together integrated infrastructure for deciphering the human interactome an expertise that, until now, has been spread in 12 universities across Canada.

Sequencing the human genome has revolutionized biomedical research. One of the major challenges that scientists throughout the world are facing in the post-genome era is the mapping of the interactome, which can be defined as the complete set of interaction networks underlying the functioning of our cells. The creation of a nation-wide platform will allow Canadian scientists to position themselves favorably in interactome research. In fact, a group of Canadian researchers led by Dr. Coulombe is currently working with American and European colleagues on the creation of an international project, the International Interactome Initiative (I3), aimed at developing new technologies and expertise to elucidate the interactome.

"Canada has now a powerful tool that will allow its scientists to continue to take the lead in international research on the human interactome," mentioned Dr. Coulombe. "Thanks to this $22.9 million investment from the CFI and the other partners in this project, we will not only be able to gather detailed data allowing us to understand the interactome's dynamic organization, but also combine the areas of expertise of some of our best scientists through a very promising multidisciplinary project for our country and our respective provinces and institutions." According to Dr. Coulombe, understanding the interactome's organization by mapping the dynamic networks that proteins form when they interact together and with other molecules such as RNAs or DNA will allow us to better define the very bases of life and the misfunctions that lead to illness and eventually death. "There is even hope that this knowledge of the intricate molecular functioning of human cells will lead to the development of better treatments to fight against diseases," concluded the researcher.

"Canadian scientists are at the forefront of research aimed at deciphering how proteins inside the cell interact, and how errors in this process underlie disease states. This generous funding from the CFI will allow leading scientific groups in Canada to collaborate in addressing this critical problem in biomedicine. This collaboration will greatly accelerate our ability to analyze the proteins within normal and diseased cells, and to comprehensively map out their interactions," added Dr. Anthony Pawson of The Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute (SLRI) in Toronto and the recipient of several prestigious international awards such as the Gairdner Award (1994), the Wolf Prize (2005) and the Kyoto Prize (2008). Dr. Pawson is one of the scientists involved in the national platform project and the creation of the International Interactome Initiative (I3), along with Dr. Coulombe.

"I am proud that the IRCM is coordinating such an important Canada-wide initiative under the leaderschip of Dr. Coulombe. The IRCM is fully committed to provide all necessary support for the success of this new technology platform," added Dr. Tarik Mry, President and Scientific Director of the IRCM.


Contact: Benoit Coulombe
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal

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