Scientists working on the next generation of vaccines and inhibitors to combat viruses and bacterial infections will have their research capabilities greatly enhanced when the UK’s new Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC) opens in late 2015. Conveniently located next to Diamond’s synchrotron building, the centre’s powerful cryo-electron microscopes will allow scientists to visualise the structure of the cell to help further understand molecular make-up and will provide new tools to image single bio-molecules.
The new centre will offer the imaging approaches of single particle analysis of biological macromolecules and cellular tomography, as well as electron crystallography. These techniques will complement the atomic mapping possible with the established macromolecular crystallography beamlines. Additional capabilities coming online in the future are elemental mapping in cells provided by the X-ray nanoprobe and the larger scale cell imaging capability of the new Full Field Cryo Transmission X-ray Microscope (cryo-TXM).
These complementary new facilities are expected to draw scientists from around the world, and establish the nation’s synchrotron as a hub of world-leading research into disease prevention.
Project goals, UK partners and roles
The overall goals are firstly to isolate and/or design mutant forms of poliovirus that make stable empty virus-like particles (VLPs) suitable for vaccine production and secondly to develop methods to produce such VLPs cheaply and efficiently by recombinant expression technology (e.g. in yeast, insect cells, etc.).
University of Leeds - Prof David Rowlands is the PI on the grant and he and his colleague Prof Nicola Stonehouse are selecting and studying more stable forms of poliovirus type 1 and exploring yeast as a potential production system.
University of Oxford - Prof Dave Stuart is dealing with structural aspects of the project including using in silico analytical approaches to design more stable VLPs. He is also investigating VLP production in mammalian cell culture.
University of Reading - Prof Ian Jones is investigating recombinant expression systems (especially in insect cells using baculovirus vectors) for production of VLPs.
National Institute for Biological Standardisation and Control (NIBSC) - Drs Andy Macadam and Phil Minor are constructing more stable mutant forms of poliovirus types 2 and 3. They are in an expert situation to directly compare our VLP vaccines with current commercial vaccines.
John Innes Institute - Prof George Lomonossoff is exploring the potential of using plants to express the VLP particles.