X-ray crystallography at Advanced Photon Source

THACA, N.Y. -- A Cornell University-led research group comprising 25 faculty members from six institutions has been awarded a $19.6 million, five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health to build a structural biology research facility at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source (APS). The amount of the first year's grant is $4.6 million.

The scientists believe that the results of their research will have an important impact on human health care, pharmaceutical development and biotechnology. The goal is to apply the techniques of X-ray crystallography --- firing a beam of X-rays through a crystallized protein sample to determine its structure -- to the causes and treatments of human disease, including cancers and diseases of the immune system. Areas that will be investigated include cell-cycle regulation, DNA transcription, initiation and regulation, the structure and function of viruses and enzymes, and protein folding.

The research group is called the Northeastern Collaborative Access Team (NE-CAT) and consists of faculty from Cornell, Columbia University, Harvard University, Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University and Yale University.

The APS is a third-generation particle storage ring built by the Department of Energy at a cost of nearly $1 billion and is one of the most powerful X-ray sources in the world. The NE-CAT facility is just one of 34 being developed at APS through scientific collaborations and one of only a handful to focus on biological research.

The goal of the consortium is to determine the atomic structures of very large molecules, or macromolecules, such as proteins. However, Steven Ealick, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell and NE-CAT's principal investigator and organizer, noted that "the real focus is on protein complexes, such as the ribosome." This is the site within the living cell where proteins are synthesized from RNA. Ealick also noted the focus on re

Contact: David Brand
Cornell University News Service

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