Today Diamond unveiled its strategy for growth over the next decade and highlighted key findings from the past year in areas such as antivirals, Osteoarthritis, the fight against Ebola, lithium ion batteries and fuel cell catalysts.
Andrew Harrison, Diamond’s CEO, said, “The past year has been incredibly productive with over 850 peer-reviewed journal articles published by our staff and user community. We have recently signed up our 100th industry customer, 3Dmagination, and we are in the process of setting up state of the art facilities for electron microscopy for both the physical and life sciences.”
“By listening to the needs of our academic and industrial users, we have drawn up a development strategy that will ensure that we maintain our position as one of the best synchrotron facilities in the world. A national science facility that delivers world class science that impacts on society as a whole in a positive way. Today is about celebrating recent and upcoming successes in a week when Nature will publish significant results from Diamond on an Oxford led research project relating to a potential new treatment for diseases caused by the Ebola viruses. Looking ahead, we are working on plans to upgrade our storage ring and some of our beamlines, exploiting new technology that was not around when Diamond was built and went into operation almost 10 years ago.”
“Successful science is as much about who you are collaborating with as it is about the equipment you have access to. Diamond has a hugely dedicated team on both the science and the technical side and this has helped us secure long term collaborations with academia and industry. Our existing collaborations with universities such as Manchester, Imperial and Oxford and companies such as Johnson Matthey, Infineum and GSK bring benefits to both sides and to our wider user communities. We want to attract more collaborators to the Harwell Campus where they can benefits from our fantastic facilities and expertise, and also tap into other techniques and equipment available across the campus as a whole.”
Prof. Andrew Harrison introducing the Annual Review Showcase at the Wellcome Trust
During today’s Annual Review Showcase, which took place at the Wellcome Trust in London, a number of scientists presented on their Diamond related research and Neil Bourne, Director of the Diamond Manchester Collaboration, spoke about the growth plans for this joint partnership in the coming years.
The science other presentations were given by from Kamel Madi, University of Manchester and Katherine Staines from the Royal Veterinary College London and The University of Edinburgh. Together they are researching osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating disease that is characterised by the loss of articular cartilage that normally covers the ends of bones to allow pain free movement. Using synchrotron X-ray microtomography on the Diamond Manchester Imaging Branchline (I13-2) they explored the properties of growth plate cartilage in the knees of arthritic mice. The detailed 3 dimensional canning revealed that this tissue began to close prematurely by forming bony bridges across its length prior to the onset of disease. This bridging was excessive and was more common in areas in which the OA was at its most severe in the aged mouse. These results show an accelerated growth phenotype in the mice that could contribute to their disease pathology. The clustering of bony bridges found in late OA suggests that their formation is driven by mechanical factors, which gives the research team an important insight into how this disease progresses.
Kamel Madi is also one of the scientists behind start-up company 3Dmagination, which recently because Diamond’s 100th industrial user. Kamel spoke about the aims of the company, which provides advanced services and custom-build training in 3D and 4D imaging to academics and companies. By working with Diamond, Kamel and his co-founder Loic Courtois are able to access world class equipment and a wide range of experts for their customers and this is proving to be invaluable as they grow and develop their new venture.
Jonathan Grimes from the University of Oxford gave an update on the research that his group is doing at Diamond to help the development of new antiviral compounds. Influenza viruses are a global public health issue, responsible for approximately half a million deaths worldwide each year, and new pandemic viruses are always threatening to emerge. However, the way that influenza viruses replicate using a viral RNA polymerase is not yet understood. Understanding the structure of
this polymerase is fundamental to understanding the mechanism of viral replication. Crystals of the polymerase were examined using the Macromolecular Crystallography beamlines (including I03, I04 and I24) to solve the structure, and the High Throughput SAXS beamline B21 to monitor the global conformational changes. This showed the RNA polymerase of the influenza virus was a highly flexible and dynamic molecule that could change its structure in response to subtle changes in its environment.
Zoe Schnepp from the University of Birmingham is working with colleagues on new designs for efficient fuel cell catalysts. Zoe presented research carried out on Diamond’s Powder Diffraction beamline (I11). This beamline allows investigation of the structural properties and behaviour of materials and is enabling researchers to develop iron carbide as a catalyst for fuel cells. These cells generate clean electricity, using hydrogen as fuel and producing only water as a by-product. Current fuel cells use expensive metals, such as platinum, as a catalyst to speed up the process. However, finding cheaper alternatives such as iron carbide could make fuel cells a more viable energy technology. Beamline I11 has a special furnace heated to 700 °C, through which a beam of X-rays pass, allowing the research team to study changes in the production process which have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the catalyst. This information is allowing the development of new methods for making iron carbide nanoparticles with better catalytic activity.