NIH funds synchrotron beamlines to advance studies of molecular structures

"If you build it, they will come."

This statement is certainly true in synchrotron-based X-ray crystallography, an area of study committed to solving detailed structures of molecules. The field has exploded in recent years, and a major threat to its continued growth is limited synchrotron resources.

Synchrotrons are the enormous machines that produce powerful X-rays used by researchers to tease apart the three-dimensional structures of molecules. The scientists must schedule their data-collection visits to synchrotrons months in advance. They must then work feverishly before and during these few days to make the best use of their scarce synchrotron "beam time."

To advance structural studies of biological molecules, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are supporting the design and construction of a user facility consisting of three new beamlines at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source, the newest and most advanced synchrotron in the country.

This new facility will be custom designed and constructed by ACCEL GmbH, a company located in Bergish Gladbach, Germany. NIGMS and NCI plan to spend a total of around $23 million on the project and estimate that the three beamlines will be fully operational in about three years.

"The primary motive for the project is to benefit the scientific community by facilitating access to synchrotron beamlines. This is particularly important as the structural genomics effort at NIGMS begin to pick up speed," said Dr. Marvin Cassman, director of NIGMS.

NCI is particularly interested in how the synchrotron facilities will advance the study of cancer-related molecules. "A detailed understanding of protein structure will help cancer researchers develop drugs targeted to specific types of cancer," said Dr. Dinah Singer, director of NCI's Division of Cancer Biology.

X-ray crystallographers determine t

Contact: Alisa Zapp Machalek
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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