After the genome, the proteome

According to Nature, BGI, a research lab in Shenzhen is positioning itself at the top of an international effort to catalogue and characterize all proteins in the human body – for those wondering there are 21,000 or so protein-coding genes in the human genome.

So far several obstacles have made this mapping exercise hard to complete: first, the cost issue (estimates run in the billion USD), second, a lack of obvious medical applications and third, even more bothering, a lack of data comparability among laboratories.

BGI, together with strong backing from the government, is set to invest substantially in the “hardware” aspect of the research. The planned new mass spectroscopy center will be a world leader in integrating the different steps in the process. But, as usual, that’s just half of the path to success. The “software” aspect (data analysis) will tell if the investment was worthwhile.