The Portuguese Mass Spectrometry Network (Rede Nacional de Espectrometria de Massa, RNEM) is a research infrastructure included in the Portuguese Roadmap of Scientific Research Infrastructures of Strategic Interest that provides state-of-art scientific expertise, advanced technology, training and services in the area of mass spectrometry and proteomics.

The main objectives of RNEM are to enable scientific excellence, to support innovation, to foster scientific training and employment, thus empowering Portugal to address the Europe 2020 challenges. By rationalizing mass spectrometry and proteomics resources, RNEM is able to provide competitive, state-of-art services and technologies that support research in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, environment, pharmacology and medicine.

RNEM acts as a hub towards leading mass spectrometry and proteomics international research institutions, namely the Universities of Utrecht and Southern Denmark, the Karolinska Institute, other scientific organizations (HUPO and EuPA) and European Research Infrastructures (Instruct and Prime-XS).

RNEM provides training at all levels, from undergraduate students to post-docs, reaching standards comparable to top research centres of international ranking and supporting several FCT funded doctoral programs.

RNEM has a commitment to excellence in science, technology and international competitiveness supporting research with international impact, advanced formation and unique services in mass spectrometry in Portugal.

RNEM was established in 2006, under the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) national re-equipment program.

RNEM was recently recommended for inclusion in the FCT's Research Infrastructures Roadmap in category 1 (ref. ROTEIRO/0028/2013).

RNEM aims to achieve global recognition as an infrastructure of excellence in the field of mass spectrometry and its applications. It will increase research efficiency through networking, redundancy limitation and maximization of resources. It will contribute to the finding of solutions for grand societal changes (healthy ageing, food security, environment) by providing advanced technology, innovative services and consulting.

RNEM aspires to empower new generations of scientists and innovators through training, advanced formation and mentoring.

Finally, RNEM will strive to achieve operational sustainability and to invest in new instrumentation, novel technologies and human resources.

To implement this plan, four work packages are foreseen:

Excellent Research is key to attract the best scientists, to obtain competitive funding and to increase service and cooperation requests.

RNEM is built on scientific excellence mainly focused in three areas:

  1. Fundamental mass spectrometry and its use for investigating the chemical properties of matter
  2. Characterization of small molecules, both synthetic and from natural products
  3. Proteomics, from protein identification, to quantification, PTM and top-down analysis.

RNEM has the most advanced MS equipment in the country, from a vast array of ion-traps, triple quads, Q-tof and MALDI-TOF-TOF systems to the ultra-high resolution and multiple MSMS modes provided by FTICR-MS.

Two major limitations in the equipment base are lack of ion-mobility and Orbitrap technology. The impact of these limitations has been minimized by access to international resources. As an Affiliate Centre to INSTRUCT, structural mass spectrometry based on ion-mobility is accessible, while Orbitrap technology is reached through the PRIME-XS European infrastructure.

RNEM will overcome these limitations by acquiring specific equipment through structural funds, FCT calls (network members secured ca 1 million Euros in the 2012 call), by integrating in RNEM other institutions that have the technology and finally, to strive to become a PRIME-XS Access Site. Fulfilling the last objective means that RNEM will achieve the summit in MS and proteomics.

RNEM elects research fields that contribute to solving societal problems, namely active and healthy aging (FP7 project:2.4 M€), the exploitation of natural resources by uncovering and characterizing its chemical composition, new synthetic compounds with defined applications, analytical science, including isotope ratio analysis (with vast applications in food science, forensics and arson research) as well as inorganic and organometallic chemistry, including radioactive compounds. Omics are particularly relevant in life and health sciences research and while proteomics is well established, other areas such as lipidomics and plant metabolomics are on the rise.

To be at the forefront, RNEM will work in close association with instrument providers.

Services are a main focus of RNEM and may become a path to its financial sustainability, combined with a steady support from FCT, grants, structural funds and support from the host institutions (FCT and host institutions have been the mainstay of RNEM).

Although RNEM offers a wide array of services it has mainly served the Portuguese academia and industry. Many enterprises resort to RNEM (mainly pharmaceutical and food industries, including a few foreign ones), but the current Portuguese MS market is clearly of academic profile.

One of the greatest challenges for RNEM is to increase its sustainability by expanding its role as a service provider to an international basis. International pharmaceutical companies are a desirable target, most of them already outsource its proteomics and advanced MS needs.

RNEM will offer differentiated services, interdisciplinary and aimed at problem solving. More than a good quality/price/time relationship, RNEM will strive to offer front end services (top-down and structural proteomics, PTM characterization, HDX, organic and inorganic chemistry, isotope ratio analysis, lipidomics, natural product analysis, to name a few of the perceived opportunities).

Innovation is a very important issue and RNEM will strengthen its position as an innovator supporter. As an example, several COHITEC projects have been supported by RNEM, and some of them are now in the phase of acquiring venture capital for business development.

National and international visibility, built upon RNEM's scientific excellent and ability as service provider is a key point to attract more users and services.

Until now, RNEM has been mainly focused on its natural targets, namely academia and selected industries, with a national emphasis but must expand towards a greater internationalization.

RNEM will expand its strategic cooperation with world renowned MS centers (Utrecht, Odense, Karolinska) to enhance international awareness.

The challenge ahead is to make RNEM visible to the wider international community so that it becomes perceived as an international ranking infrastructure of excellence.

This strategy will deploy two main approaches. First, organization of regular meetings, with top international speakers, on a two year periodicity. Short meetings, will be held with greater frequency, three a year. Second, RNEM will use international organized societies for divulging purposes and will strengthen its bonds with other similar research infrastructures namely, INSTRUCT, the ProteoRed and PRIME-XS. EuPA, HUPO, IMSS will also be used, as well as other international societies of proteomics and mass spectrometry.

Education empowers people to innovate and innovation is a common priority to all countries covering multiple policy domains, being critical for the global economy.

RNEM has been involved in higher education teaching and training up to PhD and post-doc levels that require highly trained and skilled researchers.

Network operation materialized in the organization of several mass spectrometry and proteomics training and advanced courses on a regular yearly basis.