Finn and Zhang will be synthesizing new lipids and detergents and helping to determine the right sorts of lipid/detergent/protein mixtures for membrane proteins. Eventually, they will scale up to several hundred different lipids and detergents, from which the best will be selected. Large quantities of these will then be produced, says Finn.
In the end, scaling up is one of the primary goals -- in other words, developing the tools that will allow membrane proteins to be produced so that membrane protein structures can be solved rapidly.
"Ten years ago, people thought it would be very difficult to solve kinase structures. Now they are being solved left and right," says Stevens. "The same could happen with membrane proteins -- we just need that technological breakthrough to unleash it."