The Wellcome Trust has announced a £40 million project targeting research into illnesses such as cancer, neurological disorders and malaria.
Researchers based at Oxford University will work with Canadian academics at Toronto University to unravel the structure of hundreds of human proteins in the trust's first major international collaboration. It will begin the next stage in the development of the Human Genome Project, which has almost completed its task of decoding the 30,000 to 40,000 genes in the human body.
Jean Thomas, a governor of the trust, said: "The structural insights should provide underpinning for drug design and will also lead to advances in understanding of the basic biology of these proteins."
The Structural Genomics Consortium will be funded by Wellcome, four of Canada's leading research funding agencies and pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The results will be made freely available in the public domain.
Aled Edwards of the Banting and Best department of medical research at Toronto will lead the project, which will target more than 350 proteins.
The results will help researchers understand the function of the proteins and their role in safeguarding health or increasing susceptibility to illness.
Wellcome is providing £18 million of funding and GlaxoSmithKline is putting in £3 million. The Canadian funders (Genome Canada, the Ontario government's Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health) are together contributing £19 million.