Diamond Concise Annual Review 2021/22

38 39 D I A M O N D L I G H T S O U R C E A N N U A L R E V I E W 2 0 2 1 / 2 2 D I A M O N D L I G H T S O U R C E A N N U A L R E V I E W 2 0 2 1 / 2 2 Africa-UK Collaboration Tackles Energy andHealthNeeds I n June 2021, we celebrated the achievements of the Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology (START) programme 1 . Funded by a £3.7MGlobal Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) grant from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the GCRF START programme equipped labs, supported research posts, and trained early-career scientists from 2018 to its close in 2021 2 . Diamond played a pivotal role providing access to synchrotron techniques, beamtime, training andmentoring. Research focused on structural biology and energy materials to address key United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Scientists explored solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells, as well as catalysts. The work also included studies for drug targets and vaccines, and ‘green’ biotechnology. Structural biology highlights The structural biology landscape in South Africa was transformed by increased understanding of potential treatments for many diseases including SARS-CoV-2, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and many others. New infrastructure was built at seven institutions, which included six protein crystallography laboratories that can access synchrotrons worldwide. A total of four labs now own X-ray diffractometers and, uniquely in Africa, the University of Cape Town’s Aaron Klug Centre for Imaging and Analysis now houses a cryo- electron microscope equipped with a direct electron detector. Groups at eight institutions regularly collected X-ray diffraction data at Diamond and cryo-EM data at eBIC. Access to beamline I04-1 at Diamond enhanced research prospects for early career scientists like Dr Blake Balcomb and Dr Anton Hamann (University of Stellenbosch) in their work to design medicines for tuberculosis, malaria, and S. aureus infections. Likewise, Dr Carmien Tolmie’s studies on enzymes to develop drug targets for fungal infectious diseases are benefitting from access to X-ray crystallographic fragment screening. After using beamlines I04, I04-1 and I03 at Diamond, Professors Lynn Morris and Penny Moore and Dr Thandeka Gwete-Moyo from South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) were able to determine a broadly neutralising HIV antibody structure. Thandeka said, “START has given me opportunities I could have never imagined”. Some key outcomes from START • More than 66 papers published, and dozens of protein structures deposited in the global Protein Data Bank. • Over 264 Diamond synchrotron shifts carried out through more than 61 beamtime sessions. • Over 40 post-doctoral research associates (PDRA) and technicians funded for 3 years (31 African; 10 UK). • 25 leading Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators (7 from the UK and 18 from Africa) trained and mentored more than 92 postgraduates. • Over 50% of 23 structural biology positions funded by GCRF START held by female scientists. • Workshops and conferences hosted hundreds of international participants. • START’s Sci-ART project collaborated with the Keiskamma Trust, a South African community-led NGO 1 . Energy materials highlights Affordable, clean, and sustainable energy solutions are urgently required. Scientists from Zimbabwe, South Africa, UK, and Egypt partnered with START to start to tackle these issues. Groups from the Universities of Witwatersrand (Wits) and Oxford used cutting-edge techniques to develop photoactive layers for solar cell prototypes. START also provided valuable X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) data analysis skills for Wits PhD students who are studying potential cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries and renewable energy storage systems. Exposure to new skills led to new opportunities, including the award of British Council NewtonTravel Grant to Kenyan researcher Dr Francis Otieno for research visits to Diamond and Oxford University. Dr Mohamed Fadlalla from Cape Town and MSc student Chris Mullins identified parameters of iron-based bimetallic catalysts which led to enhanced CO 2 hydrogenation performance. The work involved new collaborations with several UK centres. Subsequently, Dr Fadlalla was promoted to Research Officer and awarded prestigious university and national grants for his research going forward. Building on START’s legacy Reflecting on the success of the programme, Professor Chris Nicklin, Diamond ScienceGroup Leader said,“START has beenanexciting journey, which has reaped fantastic results in a remarkably short space of time”. He added that African researchers are keen to apply synchrotron techniques to their research problems and find African and joint solutions to global challenges. There is now a huge appetite for a ‘START 2,’ especially if the ambition of an African Light Source is to be realised. References 1. https://start-project.org/ 2. Nicklin C et al . DOI: 10.1080/08940886.2022.2043684 3. https://start-project.org/keiskamma-sciart-collaboration/ Dr Carmien Tolmie using an X-Ray diffractometer at the University of the Free State, South Africa. Photo Credit: R. Machado. ©Diamond Light Source.