BBSRC, the Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council (MRC) have granted £15.6M for a new imaging centre for biology at Diamond Light Source.
The new centre will join one of Diamond's Phase III beamlines – the X-ray nanoprobe that will stand outside the landmark doughnut shaped building.
It will operate like a beamline and although not connected to the powerful synchrotron light source, it will complement and synergise with Diamond's current capabilities. The powerful cryo-electron microscopes will peep into the structure of the cell to help further understand molecular make-up and will provide new tools to visualise single bio-molecules.
Commenting on the funding announcement, lead academic involved Prof Helen Saibil, Bernal Professor of Structural Biology at Birkbeck College says: "When this facility becomes available it will enable more and higher quality science – we expect it to be a big stimulus to structural and cellular biology in the UK and Europe. Many crystallographers and cell biologists express an interest in these methods but don't have access to the required facilities and expertise – the centre will provide training and technical support."
It will enable broad, cost-effective access to these specialised techniques, as it is not practical and affordable to distribute such facilities to all laboratories using this key technology. Increasingly, the combination of advanced methods is needed to understand biology at the molecular level; and so synergy with the other techniques offered by Diamond makes it an ideal location, where strong expertise and infrastructure are already in place.
Prof Dave Stuart, Life Science Director at Diamond Light Source, MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the Department of Medicine University of Oxford, and Director of the European Instruct project, adds: "Diamond is delighted to be home to this new facility through the new grant awarded by the Wellcome Trust in collaboration with BBSRC and MRC. This new investment will provide a unique approach which will integrate the activities of the synchrotron and the capabilities of electron microscopy. It will create a new synergy between the scientific techniques on offer. It is hoped that through this major advances in visualising of sub cellular mechanisms will be made."
Dr Michael Dunn, Head of Genetic and Molecular Sciences at the Wellcome Trust, said: "We are pleased to be involved in this exciting venture, together with MRC and BBSRC, which will enable UK research to remain at the cutting edge of structural biology."
As cryo-electron microscopy is becoming increasing specialised and expensive for university departments to build and operate, a centralised approach to such biological facilities is the way forward to optimise costs and usage.
The facility will be designed, built and operated in a similar way to any of the beamlines at Diamond. A facility leader will be appointed to ensure international scientific leadership.
The facility will be accessed through peer review and opened to UK, EU and international scientists.