New x-ray resource for examining biomolecular structures

May 01, 2002

Bethesda, MD--The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today an agreement between the Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the NCRR-supported Northeastern Collaborative Access Team, or NE-CAT, to build three experimental stations, known as beamlines, at the APS for synchrotron radiation research.

These beamlines will harness the brilliant X-rays generated at the APS and apply them to the study of protein complexes and other biomolecular structures. Detailed understanding of molecular shapes and interactions has allowed scientists to devise improved therapies for diseases ranging from AIDS to the flu.

Synchrotron X-rays have an incomparable ability to reveal the three-dimensional structures of biological molecules at high resolution. Therefore, access to synchrotron research facilities is in great demand by the biomedical research community. Currently synchrotron radiation can be generated at fewer than a dozen facilities in the United States. Of the 40 beamlines operational in the United States, NCRR supports 24--not including the new NE-CAT stations--for use by NIH-supported investigators and other biomedical researchers.

"NE-CAT will provide biomedical scientists with urgently needed access to synchrotron radiation, which is an unsurpassed tool for probing biomolecular structures" says NCRR Director Dr. Judith L. Vaitukaitis. "Information from detailed structural studies will lead us toward an understanding of how proteins function and interact and will, in some cases, be the basis for designing new therapeutics for human disease."

The NE-CAT research team comprises faculty from six academic institutions: Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University and Yale University. The NE-CAT director is Dr. Stephen E. Ealick, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University in New York. NCRR supports the NE-CAT resource with a $19.6 million, five-year, competitive renewable grant. In addition, NE-CAT will receive $6.6 million from member institutions and $1.5 million from the APS. Construction of the three stations will be incrementally completed between 2002 and the beginning of 2006.

NCRR supports biomedical research resources at four of the five major synchrotron facilities in the United States. Among these synchrotron resources are the Biophysics-CAT and the Biological Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources-CAT, both also located at APS. The APS particle storage ring, built by the Department of Energy, is one of the world's most powerful X-ray facilities.
NCRR is the nation's leading Federal sponsor of resources that enable advances in many areas of biomedical research. NCRR support provides the scientific research community with access to a diverse array of biomedical research technologies, instrumentation, specialized basic and clinical research facilities, mammalian and non-mammalian animal models, genetic stocks, and biomaterials such as cell lines, tissues, and organs. Publications, including fact sheets and other materials, are available on the NCRR website at

NIH/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

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