The Enzyme Function Initiative will investigate genes and proteins identified in gene-sequencing projects.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is providing $33.9 million in Glue Grant funding to support multidisciplinary research into identifying the functions of unknown enzymes. The Enzyme Function Initiative (EFI) will combine structural biology and computer modeling along with gene knockout techniques in bacteria to try to predict and then validate enzyme functions based initially on their amino acid sequences and structures. The function-forecasting approach will be tested on five different families of enzymes.

The new program will be led by John A. Gerlt, Ph.D., Gutgsell chair and professor of biochemistry and of chemistry and biophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-collaborators will receive nearly a third of the total five-year grant funding.

The EFI consortium hopes to throw new insights into the functions of many genes and proteins that have yet to be characterized from gene-sequencing projects, explains the consortium’s Steven C. Almo, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and of physiology and biophysics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. “The knowledge gained from our EFI will give us a better sense of the breadth of enzymatic and metabolic activities that exist in nature. It will also further our understanding of disease and help us to identify new targets for drug development.”

The NIGMS Glue Grant initiative is designed to make resources available for currently funded scientists to collaborate on tackling complex problems that are of central importance to biomedical science but that are beyond the means of any one research group. Applications of different sizes and scope are being encouraged. The small grant program is designed for projects that need up to $300,000 in funding. The large Glue Grant program is designed for projects that require up to $5 million in direct costs.

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