May 2018 – The National Institutes of Health is supporting efforts to broaden biomedical scientists’ access to cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), the Nobel Prize-winning imaging method that is revolutionizing structural biology. The Transformative High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy program is creating three national cryo-EM service centers to provide access to the technology and is supporting the development of cryo-EM training curricula to build a skilled workforce. Microscopy is an important tool for scientists in the study of cells, tissues, and organs. Cryo-EM is a method used to image frozen biological molecules without the use of structure-altering dyes or fixatives, to provide a more accurate model of the molecules and a greater understanding of biological function. Recent advances in cryo-EM technology have made it possible for scientists to obtain detailed images and structures of many biological molecules that cannot be obtained using other methods, like X-ray crystallography. Despite the emergence of cryo-EM as a powerful high-resolution imaging method, its use is hampered by high equipment and operating costs and a limited workforce.
The Transformative High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy program is part of the NIH Common Fund, which encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. More information is available at the Common Fund website.
The three national centers will be established at the New York Structural Biology Center, the Oregon Health & Science University in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. The centers will provide scientists with access to state-of-the-art cryo-EM technology and training, from sample preparation to collection of high-resolution data and computational analysis. The six-year awards are anticipated to total $128 million, and centers are expected to offer limited services by late 2018 as they build to full capacity.
Four grants for the creation of instructional and hands-on training in cryo-EM methodology were awarded to the California Institute of Technology, Yale University, the University of Utah, and Purdue University. The grants will be used to develop online video lectures, software and e-books, 3D animations and interactive simulations, and interactive virtual reality to train novice and experienced users on cryo-EM technology and theory. The three-year awards are anticipated to total $1.5 million.
- New York Structural Biology Center (U24 GM-129539)
- Bridget Carragher
- Clinton Potter
- Oregon Health & Science University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (U24 GM-129547)
- Eric Gouaux
- Michael Chapman
- James Evans
- SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University (U24 GM-129541)
- Wah Chiu
- Britt Hedman
- Michael Schmid
- Georgios Skiniotis
Curricula Development Awards
- California Institute of Technology (R25 EY-029128)
- Yale University (R25 EY-029125)
- University of Utah (R25 EY-09124)
- Purdue University (R25 EY-029127)
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