Instruct-ERIC was launched at a ceremony in London
At a Royal Society awards ceremony celebrating the prestigious new European Commission-approved status for structural biology Instruct Research Infrastructure, UK Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson recognised the value and relevance of collaborative work between the UK and European scientists.
Instruct is a pan-European partnership giving researchers vital access to advanced instrumentation and the necessary training. The equipment is typically very expensive and requires specific technical experience. Technology and infrastructure are at the heart of the revolution to connect atomic resolution of molecular structures with functionality at the cellular level, and technical advances are constantly pushing the science forward.
The new legal status for Instruct transforms it into a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), joining 16 others across Europe. As the second UK-hosted ERIC, Instruct will provide the European structural biology community with continued access to high-quality, stable and sustainable services.
Over the past four decades, European researchers have played a pivotal role in developing increasingly sophisticated technologies including super-powerful cryo-electron microscopes. Instruct has been supported since its inception by the Medical Research Council, on behalf of the UK as the host country.
Instruct provides access to some of the most sophisticated methods that allows researchers to generate images of molecules at near-atomic level, in far greater detail than was previously possible. This detail allows them to understand how the molecular machines in our bodies work and determine the building blocks of proteins, viruses and cells. Cryo-EM, one of the key technologies at the forefront of the structure revolution, is allowing researchers to better understand how diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, affect the brain, and how specific molecules involved in causing disease might be targeted with drugs or vaccines.
Minister Jo Johnson was able to announce at the event new multi-million pound funding for further cryo-EM facilities in UK, some of which will be available through the Instruct Centre UK, located in Oxford and the Harwell Research Campus. This investment combined with the new status of Instruct-ERIC, will enable the best and brightest minds across Europe to continue to share knowledge and state-of-the-art equipment, to advance discovery science and improve human health.
Professor David Stuart, Director of Instruct-ERIC and MRC Professor at the University of Oxford, said: “Continued stability for partnerships across Europe is invaluable at this critical and exciting time for structural biology. International collaboration has always been important for structural biology as we need the collective knowledge and skills of chemists, physicists, computer scientists and biologists to develop the technology, before we can advance the science. Today’s announcements represent a welcome commitment to strengthening infrastructure, research collaborations and enabling the brightest minds to work together across borders.”
Dr Nathan Richardson, MRC Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Chair of Instruct-ERIC Council, said: “We’re delighted to be able to provide extra support, complementary to other investments, enabling access for even more researchers to cutting-edge technology at a crucial time, allowing them to tackle the biological questions that will help advance human health.”
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Instruct launch signals new opportunities for European science
Breakthroughs in biomedical science are a step closer today, with the launch of a new distributed research infrastructure for the science of structural biology. The launch of ‘Instruct’ will give academic and commercial scientists across Europe access to a full portfolio of integrated technologies, thanks to the collaboration of fourteen of Europe’s leading structural biology research institutes.
Prof. Dave Stuart, Instruct Director, said; “Never before have European biologists had a single point of access to all the technology and expertise they need to further their research. By bringing together the different disciplines, technologies and experts in European biology, Instruct will be helping to make the vision of truly integrated biology a reality for the first time.”
The first researcher to test the unique access to technology through Instruct, Dr. Colin McVey from the Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, is using Instruct to further his research in structural immunology. Dr. McVey, said: “I am delighted that my proposal has been accepted by Instruct. It will be of great advantage and benefit for me, and for other European researchers, to be able to access the best technology around Europe through a single application. I am looking forward to carrying out the work with the help of the technology experts and to further my research development.”
Instruct provides access to some of the most advanced technology in the world, such as sample preparation for cryo-electron tomography using ion beam milling housed at the Max Planck Institute Martinsried in Germany and the automated system for mammalian expression housed at Oxford in the UK, both of which are at the frontier of current technology. A full catalogue of the accessible technology is available on the Instruct Hub at www.structuralbiology.eu.
Prof. Dino Moras, Principal Investigator at IGBMC-CERBM Instruct Centre in Strasbourg added; "Structural biology is at a critical stage where close integration with cell biology will open up new and powerful insights into treating diseases, from killer cancers to the common cold. Instruct will have a big impact on medical advances over the next decade."
Instruct is a thriving online community of over 500 scientists from 25 countries. Each user can tailor their profile to match their interests and priorities. The Instruct Hub includes adverts for jobs and academic programmes and a comprehensive calendar of events, discussion forums and plans for virtual workspaces for collaborative projects in the near future. The Instruct Hub is also home to a number of networks of scientists with a common interest or objective.
Eight countries; Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom have subscribed, ensuring that researchers from those countries can access the technology and expertise offered through Instruct.
The 15 Instruct Centres are providing up to 20% of their resources for access through Instruct. This resource is worth in excess of €4million but costs more to maintain and develop.
The single Instruct application process is used to access all the technology available at all of the Instruct centres, often as collaborations. The online application process includes review of the science and a technical feasibility appraisal.
Stephen Cusack, Head of Outstation of EMBL in Grenoble invited researchers to join Instruct: “The Instruct website, ‘the Hub’ is at the heart of what Instruct can offer, from the research proposal application process and the database of technologies to the forums and collaborative workspaces. Additionally, it has a wealth of useful resources like the calendar of events, job adverts and information about funding. We are inviting researchers from all disciplines to register on www.structuralbiology.eu so that they can make the most of Instruct.”
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