EU invests 10 million euro in unlocking technologies for key research in structural biology

17 Dec 2019

To enable researchers from European institutes to extend innovative structural biology research, the EU has invested 10 million euro to iNEXT-Discovery, through its Horizon 2020 program. The iNEXT-Discovery consortium aims to facilitate the generation of knowledge for the development of new drugs, advanced vaccines, novel biomaterials, engineered enzymes for food production, efficient biofuels, and other benefits. iNEXT-Discovery will do that by enabling leading European facilities to offer advanced technological instrumentation and expertise to all European scientists, allowing them to perform high-end structural biology research with state-of-the-art equipment that is often unavailable in their home countries.

Advancing technologies beyond the state of the art

Joining forces within the iNEXT-Discovery consortium also enables the partners to collaborate in joint research activities that will allow new and better ways to perform structural biology experiments. iNEXT-Discovery will build on the expertise of the partners to: further consolidate the strong role of structural biology in drug development by developing fragment-based lead discovery; develop tools to increase the throughput for electron microscopy and serial X-ray crystallography; integrate structural biology technologies; push nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other technologies to better describe time scales, molecular states and dynamics; and integrate structural biology approaches for imaging cells.

Enabling research without borders

iNEXT-Discovery includes partners from institutions outside of the facility providers that also collaborate on planned joint research projects. Prof. Dr. Anastassis Perrakis, the iNEXT-Discovery coordinator from the Division of Biochemistry at the NKI and Oncode Institute explains: “Together with regional experts, specifically from the Baltic and Balkan countries, and with five ESFRI communities in the fields of health, biotechnology, and food, we are offering cutting-edge technologies and novel experimental possibilities to all European scientists, enabling experiments that would be impossible without our facilities”. Integration will be further enabled through the extensive and inclusive training program that the iNEXT-Discovery has developed, and that will be deployed in the coming four years.

How to access iNEXT-Discovery facilities

Access to all facilities will be available through an open peer review system that is based on scientific excellence and the potential of each project for enabling translational research. While iNEXT-Discovery expects Open Access publication from all users, it also enables researchers from industry to access its facilities as a fee-for-service, through a dedicated access portal. Starting from the 1stof February 2020, iNEXT-Discovery will be open for applications.

iNEXT-Discovery and CEITEC Masaryk University

The CEITEC Masaryk University makes the Josef Dadok National NMR Centre and Cryo-electron Microscopy and Tomography Core Facility available. “In the Josef Dadok National NMR Centre, an array of high-field NMR instruments offers measurements of multi-dimensional data on biological samples in liquids using a wide range of highly sensitivity cryo-probes. Specific expertise at the site provides qualified assistance for studies of ordered and disordered biomacromolecules both in-vitro and in-vivo. The Cryo-electron Microscopy and Tomography Core Facility offers access and support with acquisition of cryo-electron microscopy images for both single particle and cryo-electron tomography applications. Furthermore, the facility supports the sample preparation, namely plunge freezing of in-vitro purified samples and cryo-FIB lamella micromachining of cells.” says Vladimír Sklenář, local iNEXT-Discovery coordinator and Chair of the Czech Infrastructure for Integrative Structural Biology. “Similar to iNEXT, we expect to welcome large number of user groups from all over Europe, and we are looking forward to share our instruments and experience, contributing to exciting new science”.

Structural Biology

Structural biology is of paramount importance for basic research in biochemistry, biomedicine and biotechnology, and key for fundamental innovations in health, environment and green economy. Structural biology unravels the 3D-structures of biological macromolecules, helping scientists to understand their roles within the intricate machinery of life, design new macromolecules with better properties for industry or for health, or develop small molecules that interfere with function and can be developed as the drugs of tomorrow. In the past and the present, Europe remains in a leading position in this research area.

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