The new Orphan Enzymes Project site is up.

Gene and protein sequences really are the basic blueprints of life. We’re now living in a time where you can get that full blueprint for a bacterium in well under an hour – and you’ll spend most of that time loading your sample into the sequencing machine and reading the output. We interpret that full blueprint by comparing it to all the individual sequences we already know.

“What does this gene do?”

“I don’t know. Let’s check our library of genes and see if there’s something like it.”

As a result, protein and gene sequences are not only blueprints, but effectively addresses or library card catalog numbers. They tie the genetic information we’re looking at right now to all the research that has gone before. Without a sequence address, we can’t connect our past knowledge with the sequence we’re staring at right now.

So it’s been a real problem that we don’t have that sequence information for up to a third or so of all the enzymes we know. The Orphan Enzymes Project is an effort I’ve been leading for a few years now that aims to tackle that problem and connect modern sequencing efforts to the research community’s “back catalog” of amazing research.

The new site was put together by my talented collaborator Christine Rhee, who is also working on a vision for a true community effort to resolve the orphan enzyme problem.