Argonne National Laboratory agreement will boost UNC-CH's research capabilities

July 12, 1999

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Thanks to a new agreement with the Argonne National Laboratory, structural biologists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill now have direct access to ultra-powerful X-ray facilities that will enable them to conduct more sophisticated biological studies and complete some projects 10 times faster.

"Having access to the Advanced Photon Source at the Argonne Laboratory is going to keep UNC researchers competitive with other structural biologists across the globe," said Dr. Edward Collins, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine.

Collins represents the university and North Carolina on the executive board of a Southeastern consortium of universities that recently signed the pact with Argonne.

"This agreement is important to many areas of biology," the scientist said. "Imagine trying to understand a world you can't see -- structural biologists bring us the pictures that allow us to `see' the biology. This machine will provide us the opportunity to see farther and to answer questions that couldn't be answered before."

The $800 million Advanced Photon Source (APS) Facility was constructed outside Chicago three years ago by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Southeast Regional Collaborative Access Team (SER-CAT), which also includes Duke, N.C. State and institutions from seven other states, is the first southeastern group to sign on. Twenty scientific teams have signed collaborative access agreements to study materials science, molecular environmental science and structural biology at the laboratory.

While the APS maintains the huge X-ray ring itself, collaborators must pay for "beamlines" -- access points through which the powerful X-rays can be guided and used for research. Since the cost of a single beamline is about $7 million and because of its success in raising funds, SER-CAT will build two beamlines at a cost of between $13 million and $15 million.

UNC-CH, N.C. State and Duke each contributed $500,000 to the project for a total of $1.5 million to be spread over the three-year estimated design and construction time for the first SER-CAT beamline. Researchers from UNC-CH's six structural biology groups will conduct projects at the facility on immunotherapy, cancer therapeutics, anti-parasitic drugs, the AIDS virus, basic biochemistry and other topics.

Collins, for example, who also holds appointments in immunology, biochemistry and biophysics, will work on immunotherapeutics.

"I'm trying to design drugs as vaccines for viral infections or as therapeutics for cancer," he said. "This new machine is so much stronger that we will be able to do this work in a tenth of the time it took in the past. It will also allow us to use new techniques we couldn't use before."

Other UNC-CH researchers who will work at APS are Drs. Charles Carter and Hengming Ke of biochemistry, John Sondek of pharmacology, Ann Eaken of medicinal chemistry and Matt Rabindo of chemistry.

Scientists have known for decades that strong X-rays can help decode molecular structures, Collins said. Many SER-CAT researchers view the APS X-ray's ability to reveal and use very small crystals that can't be seen by in-house X-rays as the major reason for building beamlines at Argonne.

Recognition of the importance of this decoding ability has led to new information on the structure of DNA as well as design of new medicines. Because of rapidly advancing technology, the number of structural biologists has grown significantly, tripling in the South over the past five years.
-end-
Note: Collins can be reached at 919-966-6869.
Contact: David Williamson, 919-962-8596.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Biology Articles from Brightsurf:

Experimental Biology press materials available now
Though the Experimental Biology (EB) 2020 meeting was canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, EB research abstracts are being published in the April 2020 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Structural biology: Special delivery
Bulky globular proteins require specialized transport systems for insertion into membranes.

Cell biology: All in a flash!
Scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have developed a tool to eliminate essential proteins from cells with a flash of light.

A biology boost
Assistance during the first years of a biology major leads to higher retention of first-generation students.

Cell biology: Compartments and complexity
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich biologists have taken a closer look at the subcellular distribution of proteins and metabolic intermediates in a model plant.

Cell biology: The complexity of division by two
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have identified a novel protein that plays a crucial role in the formation of the mitotic spindle, which is essential for correct segregation of a full set of chromosomes to each daughter cell during cell division.

Cell biology: Dynamics of microtubules
Filamentous polymers called microtubules play vital roles in chromosome segregation and molecular transport.

The biology of color
Scientists are on a threshold of a new era of color science with regard to animals, according to a comprehensive review of the field by a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by professor Tim Caro at UC Davis.

Kinky biology
How and why proteins fold is a problem that has implications for protein design and therapeutics.

A new tool to decipher evolutionary biology
A new bioinformatics tool to compare genome data has been developed by teams from the Max F.

Read More: Biology News and Biology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.