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Research Consortium Applies X-ray Lasers to Drug Molecules

X-ray crystallography image

X-ray crystallography image of neutralizing antibody B12, green ribbon, in contact with a critical target, in yellow, for HIV vaccine developers (NIAID)

A group of eight universities and research institutes in the U.S. is advancing the use of X-ray laser technology in biology, with direct applications in finding molecular targets for new therapies.  The Center for Biology with X-ray Laser, or BioXFEL, is funded by a $25 million grant from National Science Foundation, led by University at Buffalo in New York.

BioXFEL will conduct research on X-ray bioimaging techniques for analyzing new molecular targets for drug discovery. Other partners in the consortium include Arizona State University,  Cornell University, Stanford University, University of California (UC) in San Francisco, UC Davis, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Rice University, and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute. Eaton Lattman, CEO of Hauptman-Woodward and a professor in Buffalo’s medical school, will be BioXFEL’s director.

The technology, known as serial femtosecond crystallography, produces a stream of intense and rapid X-rays that make possible the capture of biological processes that were previously considered impossible. Researchers at the center plan to study the growth of crystals 1,000 times smaller than produced by today’s technology, and track the motions of molecules not possible with today’s processes.

The work at BioXFEL is expected to benefit developers of drugs and biologics by providing new insights into the functioning of biological molecules to build a better understanding of disease onset and progression. This knowledge, say the researchers, can be applied directly to the design of therapies to change these molecular activities.

Hauptman-Woodward is an independent research institute in Buffalo and a pioneer in X-ray crystallography for the study of proteins. Much of the institute’s research is in structural biology that creates three-dimensional molecular models for drug discovery. Hauptman-Woodward also conducts research on the technologies involved in structural biology.

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