Philosophical Society of Washington

The Proteome Challenge

John S. Garavelli
Bioinformatics Scientist


2140th Meeting Abstract
Friday, January 25, 2002 at 8:15 PM

Abstract:

Publications heralding the "completion" of the human genome on February 15, 2001, were destined to be regarded as marking an important event in human history. Political, legal and commercial considerations were ultimately more important in the timing of the simultaneous publications than the science. What had been announced as the completion of the human genome was the point at which computer analysis could assemble a reliably consistent overlapped mapping of the sequenced fragments of DNA with only a small number of gaps whose size and composition could be estimated. A lot of hard work remains to be done. The private human genome collaboration reported that 12,809 (41%) of the probable gene sequences could not be assigned a function based on similarity with any other sequences of known function. There are four major questions to be answered in molecular biology.

  • Knowing the sequence of a gene, can we accurately and reliably predict the sequence of a protein?
  • Knowing the sequence of a protein, can we reliably predict its structural conformations?
  • Knowing the structure of a protein, can we predict the mechanism of its function?
  • Knowing the functional mechanism of a protein, the timing and location of its expression, and the ensemble of molecules with which it interacts, can we predict its metabolic role?

    Meeting this challenge will require database development, bioinformatics tools, and computational resources to support proteomic research and protein function assignment.

    About the Author:

    John S. Garavelli received a B.Sc. in chemistry from Duke University in 1969 and, after service at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 1970 and 1971, earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Washington University, Saint Louis, in 1975. He did post-doctoral work at the Duke University Marine Laboratory and taught at the University of Delaware and Texas A&M University. He was a National Research Council Senior Research Fellow at the Extraterrestrial Research Division, NASA Ames Research Center. Since 1989 he has been a Senior Research Scientist at the National Biomedical Research Foundation, and was been Associate Director of the Protein Information Resource from 1997 to 2001. He has conducted research in biotechnology database operation and bioinformatics, computational chemistry, molecular evolution, information theory, and space biology.

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