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Biocrystallography (X) on a highly integrated technology platform for European structural genomics

Final Report Summary - BIOXHIT (Biocrystallography (X) on a Highly Integrated Technology Platform for European Structural Genomics)

The goal was to take the best of current technologies at major European centres for research in structural biology, develop them further and weave them into a single platform that integrates and standardises the best of current technology, and then spread it throughout Europe with the aim of providing new effective tools for understanding complex biological processes at the molecular level.

The BIOXHIT project was launched on 1 January 2004. Within its span of 4.5 years, the BIOXHIT Partners set out to develop, assemble and deliver an integrated platform for high-throughput structure determination using X-ray crystallography with synchrotron radiation. BIOXHIT brought together scientists from European synchrotrons and leading software developers in both academic and industrial groups in a timely and unprecedented joint effort. The ambitions of the project's objectives, the interdependence of its research tasks and a combination of a strongly focused research programme with networking, training and mobility of staff were led under an efficient management structure.

BIOXHIT developments spanned the whole range of components required for an efficient high-throughput "pipeline" linking the crystallisation of a protein to the delivery of its 3D-structure, and requiring minimal user intervention due to its integrated logistics. Although the developments were still being deployed and tested, the main project results became fully accessible to the wider life sciences research community. Remote access facilities and an extensive programme of training and dissemination at both synchrotron facilities and at satellite centres formed an essential part of the project's activities.

Detailed progress was reported in all 141 scientific tasks and the 37 training, dissemination and management tasks that were active throughout the project. It is important to note that all the 178 project tasks were continuously reviewed and modified to make them reflect the development of the state of the art, both within the project as well as elsewhere.

One immediate effect of BIOXHIT that benefitted the community immediately was the significant reduction in the time involved in obtaining each structure. Robots, for example, can perform many tasks automatically, quickly, consistently and with high precision, replacing time-consuming manual steps. The project specifically called for improvements in the process for handling samples, the equipment needed to detect X-ray patterns, and the computers and software needed to model structures. A result of this, more researchers will be attracted to work on three-dimensional (3D) protein structures.

BIOXHIT definitely contributed towards making Europe a substantial player in this area. As well as uniting technologies, BIOXHIT also led to the integration of other relevant European and national activities, making Europe a major competitor in structural proteomics on a global scale.

Training activities were a cornerstone of the project. Four advanced Training, Implementation and Dissemination centres were created outside the participating laboratories to disseminate BIOXHIT know-how. A proactive training effort was carried out at synchrotron facilities, and then was spread to satellite centres to disseminate technologies in biological crystallography to local European communities.