By Susan Van Dusen
To conduct biomedical research, scientists must be able to identify, analyze and compare proteins in biological samples. This complex process requires facilities – known as proteomics cores – that house the specialized equipment and highly trained staff required for such a task.
The fourth annual Proteomics Facility Staff Symposium on Jan. 29-30 at UAMS brought together 30 proteomics core directors and staff members to learn how best to operate and maintain these facilities at their institutions.
All of the participants came from IDeA (Institutional Development Award) states and Puerto Rico, all of which have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as historically receiving less grant funding for biomedical research than other states.
“The first symposium was in 2017, and it has grown each year since. By getting together on a regular basis, we can learn from each other, share our successes and ensure we all have the support and knowledge to meet the needs of our researchers,” said Alan Tackett, Ph.D., associate director for basic science in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
Tackett also serves as co-director of the IDeA National Resource for Quantitative Proteomics, a partnership between the Arkansas INBRE (IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence) and Oklahoma INBRE.
The national resource combines the strengths of the two INBREs to guide and assist other IDeA states where core facilities may be underfunded or lack resources.
“At UAMS, our discovery phase proteomic capabilities are very strong, while Oklahoma has a state-of-the-art, targeted validation proteomics program. Together we offer expertise and access to equipment that facilities in other IDeA states may lack,” Tackett said.
Mike Kinter, Ph.D., of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, serves as co-director of the national resource with Tackett.
The INBRE program supports research in public and private four-year colleges by building research capacity and raising awareness about career opportunities in biomedical research. It is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutional Development Award (IDeA), which was established to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research.
Symposium participants took part in breakout sessions and heard speakers on administrative topics related to operating a proteomics core and establishing a rate structure, as well as information on topics such as sample preparation and data collection. Sessions were led by UAMS faculty Sam Mackintosh, Ph.D.; Rick Edmondson, Ph.D.; and Stephanie Byrum, Ph.D.
“We covered a wide range of topics to help core directors and staff develop and maintain programs that will succeed at their universities,” said Tackett, who also serves as a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
The Proteomics Core at UAMS is one of several core facilities where technology, tools and collaborative services are pooled together and made available on a pay-per-use basis to investigators both within and outside of UAMS who may not otherwise have access to them in their individual labs.
In the Proteomics Core, staff use a process known as mass spectrometry to help researchers identify proteins. The core is a one-stop-shop, where staff not only process the samples but can help researchers design experiments and analyze results.
A Discovery-Phase Proteomics Faculty and Student Workshop is scheduled for Feb. 27-28 at UAMS and will emphasize new approaches that researchers can implement in their own laboratories and how to best use the resulting data to be more competitive for extramural funding.