NET NEWS: Protein Database Settles In New Digs

Science  09 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5425, pp. 163
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5425.163c

The new curators of a major database for protein structural data and images officially opened their virtual doors last week. Biologists who protested against the move, from a team based at Brookhaven National Lab in New York to one led by Rutgers University in New Jersey, admit they've noticed no glitches, and others are praising the new Protein Data Bank (PDB).

Some scientists were up in arms last fall when the National Science Foundation announced the change, saying that the PDB was working well and questioning why it should be moved (Science, 11 September 1998, p. 1584). But the transfer went ahead, and as of 1 July, visitors to the PDB Web site at Brookhaven are automatically routed to a new site (http://www.rcsb.org/). Helen Berman, head of the PDB “collaboratory”—Rutgers, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology—says her group has already made clear improvements, for example, by developing software that speeds up the process of checking and annotating newly deposited data. That's helped trim the average time needed to post fully verified new data from 90 days or more to 9 days, she says.

Some of last fall's critics are reserving judgment. Berman's plans “seem very sensible,” says Yale University crystallographer Paul Sigler, but “the jury is still out.” But biomolecular modeler Tamar Schlick of New York University says she's impressed by the new tools for comparing structures developed by the Rutgers-led group. Schlick says her graduate students tried them out this spring and “were very, very enthusiastic … they especially loved the 3D visualization.” Adds Schlick, “I think Helen and her talented team will prove themselves.”

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