[ASC-media] Media release: a word that's making millions

Science & Arts Media jca-media at starclass.com.au
Sun Nov 2 20:04:30 EST 2003



November 3, 2003

"Proteomics" - a word that's making millions

Proteomics is an Australian born-and-bred success story at the cutting edge of global high technology and new ways to treat disease. 

Pioneered in the mid-1990s by a small group of Australian researchers seeking to refocus scientific effort on the difficult art of protein science at a time when genetics and genomics were all the rage, their approach has helped catalyse global interest in proteins as nature's essential messengers.

The exploding field of proteomics is the topic of an international scientific conference which opens in Sydney today - the Sir Mark Oliphant Conference titled "Proteomics: Progress, Partnership and Possibilities".

The conference is at the University of Sydney, in the school of Veterinary Science Conference Centre, from November 3-5.

Today proteomics - the science of separating, identifying and characterising proteins - has given rise to one of Australia's fastest growing biotech companies, Proteome Systems Ltd of Sydney and Boston, which in less that four years has won an international reputation for innovative biotechnology.

Keynote speaker at the conference Dr Keith Williams, CEO of Proteome Systems Ltd, says the word "proteomics" was coined in 1994 by Marc Wilkins - a founder of the company - to revitalise scientific interest in protein science
at a time when much scientific attention was focusing on genomics.

"Our intention was to draw attention to the need to focus on proteins as the functional molecules of biology", says Dr Williams. 

"Proteins make up about half of the dry matter of living organisms. They are complex molecules required for the structure, function and regulation of the body's cells, tissues and organs. Changes in their composition or abundance can lead to disease. 

"Many of the best-selling drugs either act by targeting proteins or are proteins themselves. In addition, many molecular markers of disease, which are also the basis of diagnostics, are proteins."

Dr Williams admits that the use of the word proteomics has proved a highly successful marketing tool, judging from the increasing global interest in protein science.

But it also played its part in turning the slow, laborious and indirect task of protein analysis into a rapid, automated and direct analysis operation, comparable with the study of genes.  

This new-found interest in protein science has catapulted Proteome Systems Ltd into the limelight as Australia's second fastest-growing biotech company, one of the Business Review Weekly's fastest growing 100 companies, and a major force in world proteomics science.

Today Proteome Systems is an Australian-owned unlisted private company, with 120 staff in Sydney and Boston, USA - over a quarter of them with PhDs - and 20,000 square feet of laboratory and office space.

Prior to founding Proteome Systems Ltd, Keith Williams was Professor of Biology at Macquarie University and Director of The Australian Proteome Analysis Facility (APAF), the world's first national proteome facility.
The Sir Mark Oliphant Conferences - International Frontiers of Science and Technology - are sponsored by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Sir Mark Oliphant, a Foundation Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) who run the series. 

More information:

Media seeking to interview Dr Williams or other speakers at the conference are asked to contact Dr Kevin Downard, on 02 9351 6270 or 4140

or Sydney University Media Office, 02 9351 2261.

Details of the Sir Mark Oliphant Conference on Proteomics:

More information about the ASC-media mailing list