Nature India is happy to announce the launch of the much-awaited Special Issue on “Proteomics Research in India“. Nature India has published the freely downloadable issue with support from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB).
When Nature published a cover article last year on the human proteome – more than a decade after publication of the draft human genome sequence – it was a moment of joy and pride for proteomics scientists in India. The country had missed the genomics bus earlier but a Bangalore-based group more than made up for the missed opportunity by identifying 17, 294 protein-coding genes and providing evidence of tissue- and cell-restricted proteins through expression profiling1.
The same issue of Nature carried another important paper which gave assembled protein evidence for 18,097 genes in ProteomicsDB and highlighted the utility of the data2.
Proteomics has witnessed a boom globally in the last decade, but the India story is especially stunning. “The success in Indian proteomics is mixed,” says John Yates, American chemist and professor of chemical biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. “Some are doing very well, but others are struggling. I think success revolves around people who have come back to India after working in major proteomics laboratories in the West,” says Yates, best known for the development of the SEQUEST algorithm for automated peptide sequencing and Multidimensional Protein Identification Technology (MudPIT).
According to Pierre Legrain, past President of the Human Proteome Organisation (HUPO), the Indian proteomics community will continue to contribute more in the future, through a network of “talented postdocs and PhD students sent worldwide and coming back to their country developing their own teams and projects.” “The Indian community was very well represented in Human Proteome Project from the inception. We now see many more, younger scientists playing an important role,” he adds.
One challenge, Yates points out, that India needs to take care of is patchy infrastructure. “Funding agencies are providing money to buy the necessary mass spectrometers but having the skill sets and experience in the methods and protocols is also important. The spotty infrastructure in some places is a problem as mass spectrometers are sophisticated electronic equipment and they do not like dirty or spotty electrical power.” It will be helpful if people trained in this start new labs in other places in India. “If funding agencies in India are serious about proteomics they should provide fellowships for research fellows to train in high profile labs in the West to learn with the provision they come back to India,” he remarks.
India is perched on the edge of a remarkable evolution in proteomic science. “India’s proteomic scientists are first rate. The national growth in therapeutics, especially therapeutic proteins, is stimulating the growth of proteomic skills and applications,” says Catherine Fenselau, founding president of the US-HUPO and a professor in department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Maryland. “My only concern is about the selection and admission of graduate students – several young people have told me that they had to work as low-paid technicians for four or five years before they could hope to be admitted to a Ph.D. program,” she says.
There are challenges galore in a country always trying to make ends meet with its shoestring research and development funding. Nature India takes this opportunity to capture India’s big bang achievements in global proteomics research following the draft of the human proteome maps.
This special issue seeks to analyse the trends and roadblocks in India’s research scene, the problems scientists face in translating research from bench to the bedside and some key lessons this country has learnt while looking at proteomics in the context of social innovation. The Nature India Special Issue on “Proteomics Research in India” also aims to be a compendium for researchers anywhere with its listing of e-learning initiatives, next generation proteomics tools and tips on how to analyse large datasets to detect scientifically significant events. The issue also talks about the proteomics databases and repositories across the world and looks closely at the trends in cancer, malaria and plants proteomics.
- Kim, M. et al. A draft map of the human proteome. Nature. 509, 575-581 (2014).
- Wilhelm, M. et al. Mass-spectrometry-based draft of the human proteome. Nature. 509, 582-587 (2014).