Industrial Liaison Team
The Industrial Liaison programme at Diamond continues to thrive with another year’s worth of diverse science coming through the doors in 2014/15. With 37 commercial clients doing proprietary projects across 17 beamlines this year the breadth and depth of the industrial engagement with Diamond grows increasingly strong.
While the regular commercial user base continued to make use of Diamond’s macromolecular crystallography, powder diffraction, small angle scattering and X-ray spectroscopy beamlines, the industrial usage expanded to a number of new beamlines over the past year. These included the Nanoscience beamline (I06) for soft X-ray spectroscopy, the Diamond Manchester Imaging branchline (I13-2) for X-ray imaging, the Solution State SAXS beamline (B21) for protein Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) and the Cryo-TXM beamline (B24) for X-ray microscopy (in offline mode).
For I06, users were interested in liquid samples, somewhat of a challenge on a beamline which operates in ultra-high vacuum. However, the beamline team rose to the challenge and developed a new sample environment for the beamline which extends the range of possible measurements using I06. This meant the team was able to investigate the samples in situ, as close to the final operating conditions as possible, and allowing them to monitor chemical changes as they occurred.
While proprietary use of beamlines typically occurs after the first year to give the beamline team a chance to troubleshoot any problems, the Industrial Liaison team was fortunate to be able to access B21, the solution state SAXS beamline at an earlier stage, within its first year of user operations. The beamline is equipped with a high throughput small volume liquid handling bioSAXS robot which has streamlined data collection for protein small angle X-ray scattering. The industrial partner was able to reveal structural information from a protein used in the treatment of childhood leukaemia and a paper based on this work has been submitted for publication.
As part of this more general trend to develop strategic partnerships with industry and universities, often underpinned by investment in complementary equipment or people, to exploit more fully our synchrotron facilities, Johnson Matthey, Oxford University and Diamond are coming together in 2015 to host a state-of-the-art materials characterisation facility. As part of Diamond’s Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline (I14) and electron microscopy centre, Johnson Matthey and Oxford University will each contribute cutting-edge microscopes from JEOL to support research in the physical sciences. These microscopes will complement two other advanced electron microscopes that will also be located at the new centre as part of a National Facility for Cryo-Electron Microscopy. Overall, the new centre will offer unrivalled facilities for research across the biological and physical sciences, supplementing Diamond’s existing portfolio of analytical techniques.
The Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline will take structural analysis with detailed element mapping to the highest spatial X-ray resolution available anywhere in the world. Complementing the beamline information, the electron microscopes, through Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), atomic scale imaging and electron diffraction, will show the identity, ordering and chemical state of atoms in samples. The potential of today’s advanced materials depends upon the structures and properties that arise from collections of atoms interacting in their local environment. In automotive emissions control catalysts, fuel cells, chemical process technology and battery materials, the collections of atoms are the catalytically active sites and characterising these leads to better understanding and improved design. At greater length scales, framework materials such as graphene, zeolites or complex ceramics provide controlled transmission of active effects from clusters of atoms to greater length scale properties. The expertise and equipment that Johnson Matthey, Oxford and Diamond bring together will provide the nucleus for the community to come together and address important future challenges.
While the above examples all come from either industrial projects or well established partnerships, the Industrial Liaison team continue to host events at Diamond specifically focusing on industrial applications to attract new industrial users. For example, in January 2015, the team hosted a Membrane Protein Structure Determination Symposium for industrial scientists in partnership with the Membrane Protein Laboratory. The symposium comprised of lectures from experts in the field along with hands-on practical sessions in which delegates learnt about sample preparation methods, data collection, and analysis strategies. The event brought together structural biologists and biochemists from a wide selection of pharmaceutical companies, allowing delegates to gain experience of the latest developments in membrane protein research in Diamond’s dedicated state-of-the-art facilities.
Delegates and speakers of the Membrane Protein Structure Determination Symposium.
With recent advances in both technology and sample preparation methods, it is now possible to investigate the structure of membrane proteins, previously too difficult to access. Membrane proteins are important pharmaceutical targets with 60% of the current marketed drugs targeting this class of proteins. They sit on the outside of the cell and work like gateways, allowing certain molecules inside the cell where they can have an effect. By identifying the structure of these proteins, it is possible to design drugs that neatly interact with them; leading to drugs that are more effective and have fewer side effects.
However, a major challenge in designing drugs to target membrane proteins is the need for high resolution structural information. The symposium focused on recent approaches devised to address the major challenges related to the expression, extraction, purification and crystallisation of membrane proteins and on the latest developments in X-ray crystallography experiments at Diamond to obtain structural information from these tiny, extremely fragile, but very important, crystals.
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