Principal characteristics of the facility and of the support offered to users:
This proposal is aimed at establishing a joint large-scale facility named Centre for Design and Structure in Biology (CDSB) based in Naples (Italy) at the Biocrystallography Research Centre, and in Jena (Germany) at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology. The two institutes forming the Joint Centre are willing to make their unique combination of high-end instruments for structural biology available to researchers from the European Union. The application presented here describes the access offered by the Jena branch of the Joint Centre, while the application of the Naples branch is submitted as part of the same package. Modern molecular biology and biotechnology rely on a detailed knowledge of the architecture of biological macromolecules, in order to understand their function, to change their properties by engineering, or to design other molecules (e.g. drugs) interacting with them. Today, a whole range of techniques are available to elucidate the three-dimensional structures of proteins and nucleic acids, in particular X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, electron microscopy, and molecular modeling. With the molecular systems being studied getting ever more complex, a combination of techniques for structure determination is becoming necessary in an increasing number of cases. However, all three techniques are rarely available in one institution, and if they are, they are usually not equipped with state-of-the-art instruments. This is different for the Joint Jena-Naples Centre for Design and Structure in Biology (CDSB) proposed here.
The Joint Centre could offer access to as many as 4 NMR spectrometers in the 400 - 750 MHz range, three rotating anode X-ray generators equipped with six electronic detectors as well as several high-end electron and scanning tunneling microscopes, scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes and differential interference contrast microscopes. All this is complemented by high-end computational resources as well as by state-of-theart laboratory instrumentation for the synthesis or genetic expression, purification, characterization, isotope labelling, and crystallization of bioactive materials. The expertise available in the two institutes of the Joint Centre is certainly complementary, with Naples focusing on studies of protein-peptide complexes, while proteinprotein and protein-nucleic acid interactions are at the heart of the activities in Jena.
Quantity of access being offered and number of users who may benefit: The Jena institute (IMB) offers 15% of the experimental time available at its NMR spectrometers, X-ray detectors and electron microscopes to European users, along with a similar share of its computer and wet laboratory resources. It will host approx. 40 European researchers every year. The Naples branch of the Joint Centre intends to host an additional 40-50 visitors from EU member countries annually.