- Lead academics on the project (left to right) Prof Dave Stuart, Life Science Director at Diamond Light Source, MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the Dept of Medicine University of Oxford, and Director of the European Instruct project, Prof Kay Grüenewald, Prof of Structural Cell Biology at the Oxford Particle Imaging Centre University of Oxford, Prof Helen Saibil, Bernal Professor of Structural Biology at Birkbeck College, and Prof Gerd Materlik, University College London and Diamond Fellow.
A new imaging centre for biology is to be built at Diamond following the award of a £15.6 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The centre will join one of Diamond’s Phase III beamlines – the X-ray nanoprobe which will stand outside the doughnut, housed in its own building.
It will operate like a beamline and although not connected to the powerful synchrotron light source, it will provide scientists with state-of-the-art experimental equipment and expertise that will complement Diamond’s current capabilities. The powerful cryo-electron microscopes will peep into the structure of the cell to help further understand molecular make-up and will provide new tools to visualise single bio-molecules.
This 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 macromolecular crystallography beamlines, the 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).
The facility will provide two high end Cryo-Electron microscopes, sample preparation laboratory with a super-resolution fluorescence microscope and equipment for vitreous sectioning with an ion-milling beam.
Commenting on the funding announcement, lead academic involved Prof Helen Saibil, Bernal Professor of Structural Biology at Birkbeck College says:
“When this facility becomes available it will enable more and higher quality science – we expect it to be a big stimulus to structural and cellular biology in the UK and Europe. Many crystallographers and cell biologists express an interest in these methods but don’t have access to the required facilities and expertise – the centre will provide training and technical support.”
It will enable broad, cost-effective access to these specialised techniques, as it is not practical and affordable to distribute such facilities to all laboratories using this key technology. Increasingly, the combination of advanced methods is needed to understand biology at the molecular level; and so synergy with the other techniques offered by Diamond makes it an ideal location, where strong expertise and infrastructure are already in place.