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Multi-million-pound investment in a regional cryo-electron microscopy facility

A state-of-the-art Midlands regional cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) facility has been established, following a successful bid by the Universities of Warwick, Nottingham and Birmingham, led by the University of Leicester.

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The total investment exceeds £6M, with £3.7M from the Medical Research Council. The four partner Universities will provide the remaining funds, with the University of Warwick contributing £460,000

The co-applicants of the project from Warwick were Dr Corinne Smith from the School of Life Sciences, with Professors Mohan Balasubramanian and Robert Cross from Warwick Medical School.

As part of the investment, a new 200KV cryo transmission electron microscope will be placed in the Advanced Bioimaging Research Technology Platform, located within Warwick’s School of Life Sciences.

The microscope will provide an accessible route for optimization of samples, prior to use of a state-of-the-art 300KV microscope at the new cryoEM facility at Leicester, deliver high quality images of cellular structures, and enable rapid acquisition of 3D images (tomograms) of biological samples - including viruses, bacteria and mammalian tissue.

This will allow Warwick to perform its role within the Midlands partnership as a ‘feeder’ site, which will train potential users who may be new to cryo electron microscopy techniques and allow them to develop pilot cryo-EM projects to the standard needed to benefit from the new high-end 300KV microscope in Leicester.

Dr Corinne Smith, Director of the Advanced Bioimaging Research Technology Platform at Warwick’s School of life Sciences, commented:

“This is a really exciting opportunity to develop new high resolution structural biology projects - both at Warwick and within the Midlands CryoEM partnership - and to resolve previously challenging samples at near-atomic resolution detail.”

Professor Mohan Balasubramanian from Warwick Medical School commented:

“This is a brilliant development with far reaching potential. Warwick has already gained international recognition in advanced light microscopy and this state-of-the-art cryo-EM facility will synergize well and greatly strengthen our leading position in molecular and cellular structural biology."

Professor Robert Cross from Warwick Medical School commented:

"The application of CryoEM for structural molecular cell biology has developed at break-neck speed over the last few years and the pace of change is, if anything, still accelerating. These two new microscopes are an indication of our commitment to advanced structural biology in WMS."

Professor Pam Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, commented:

“This investment will further our outstanding of interdisciplinary scientific research that operates at the forefront of knowledge and drives both research and research-oriented teaching. The successful bid demonstrates Warwick’s ongoing commitment to investing in ways of working integral to our research and is another collab orative project with our Midlands Innovation partners.”

The Cryo-EM facility will bring cutting-edge research technologies to the Midlands and represents another successful collaboration within the Midlands Innovation group.

This regional facility will establish a Midlands Cryo-EM ‘ecosystem’ that will enable the sharing of equipment and expertise and will help to strengthen existing and establish new scientific collaborations across the region.

The Research Technology Platform (RTP) in Advanced Bioimaging was set up in 2015. It supports the investigation of complex biological problems by researchers at Warwick and externally, through the application of cutting-edge imaging technologies. The RTP specialises in advanced light and electron microscopy with a focus on: cryo-electron microscopy for structural biology, dynamic 3D imaging using light sheet microscopy and correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM).

Further information, contact:

Luke Walton, International Press Officer

L dot Walton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk

+44 (0) 7824 540 863

+44 (0) 2476 150 868