A major advance for structural biology provision within Europe has been achieved as Instruct-ERIC and EMBL join forces to launch Instruct Centre EMBL
In 2019, EMBL was welcomed as the first intergovernmental organisation member of Instruct-ERIC, entitling EMBL researchers to apply for funded research visits to any Instruct facility and to contribute to all other Instruct-supported activities, such as scientific meetings, training courses, and complementary funding schemes. Now Instruct-ERIC and EMBL have taken the next step and launched Instruct Centre EMBL, which will enable Instruct users to benefit from structural biology services, expertise, and training available at EMBL.
Instruct-ERIC is a pan-European distributed research infrastructure comprising 15 members, making high-end technologies and methods in structural biology available to users. It operates Centres to provide high-end technologies and methods in structural biology to academic and industrial users – EMBL will be the eleventh Centre in the programme. Instruct Centres are open to applications from academic and industry scientists, with funding available to academic researchers from Instruct member countries and organisations.
“EMBL has always played a leading role in integrating European science and supporting national, regional, and European networks of excellence,” says EMBL Director General Edith Heard. “If anything, the coronavirus crisis showed us that research works at its best when it’s collaborative across institutes, borders, and disciplines. EMBL becoming part of the Instruct Centre programme is therefore not only a benefit for EMBL but for the whole life science community in Europe.”
“The launch of the new Centre strengthens a longstanding partnership between Instruct-ERIC and EMBL, and unites research communities across Europe,” says David Stuart, Instruct-ERIC Director. “The leading facilities at Instruct Centre EMBL are a valuable addition to the Instruct Consortium and will undoubtedly facilitate important research in molecular and structural biology.”
The new Centre, which includes EMBL’s sites in Grenoble, Hamburg, and Heidelberg, offers access to a broad range of state-of-the-art facilities for the preparation, crystallisation, and biophysical and structural characterisation of biological samples. These facilities also have some of Europe’s most experienced infrastructure personnel for assistance and expertise.
High-Throughput Crystallisation Facility
The High-Throughput Crystallisation Facility at EMBL Grenoble is one of the largest platforms for high-throughput crystallisation screening in Europe. The facility offers automated protein-to-structure and fragment screening crystallography pipelines based on the CrystalDirect technology – developed at EMBL – including screening and structural characterisation. The facility allows scientists to design their experiments through a secure web interface. Dedicated operators perform the crystallisation experiments, which can be followed through a dedicated automated imaging system. The results, along with all experimental details, are also made available online in real time through the secure web interface.
Services at EMBL Hamburg focus on state-of-the-art structural biology methods using synchrotron radiation. EMBL Hamburg operates three beamlines on the PETRA III high-brilliance synchrotron at DESY: one dedicated to biological small-angle X-ray scattering and two for macromolecular crystallography. The beamlines are linked to the Sample Preparation and Characterisation Facility, which provides complementary services, including a high-throughput crystallisation laboratory and a biophysical platform to optimise and characterise interactions for structural studies. As in Grenoble, automated processing pipelines are available to users as well.
EMBL Heidelberg hosts a world-leading Cryo-Electron Microscopy Service Platform, offering access to state-of-the-art equipment for structure determination projects. The platform specialises in high-resolution TEM data acquisition using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy and cryo-electron tomography, as well as correlative cryo-electron tomography. EMBL staff provide extensive support with project planning, sample preparation, and microscope selection and operation, including full service sample handling and data collection. From 2021, the Cryo-Electron Microscopy Service Platform will extend its services as part of the EMBL Imaging Centre to provide imaging services across different scales of resolution, from molecules to organisms.