Israel’s Top Center for Structural Biology
A $4 Million Investment:
Technion established the most advanced Center for Structural Biology in the country
The Lorry I. Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering, together with the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion, invested $4 million for the establishment of the Technion Center for Structural Biology (TCSB), the most advanced of its kind in the Middle East. The head of the new center, Dr. Hay Dvir, said that this is a quantum leap in the field of structural biology in Israel, and will allow for more extensive interdisciplinary biomedical research at the Technion. He emphasized that, “The State-of-the-art Macromolecular Crystallography instrumentation at TCSB allows for biological research at the atomic level, which has thus far been mostly studied at a few billion-dollars facilities abroad.”
Structural biology is a branch of life science that aims to understand the function of biological macromolecules – such as the tens of thousands of different proteins responsible for most of the biochemical processes in the living organism – by decoding their unique three-dimensional structure. “The difficulty lies in the tiny dimensions of these molecules which cannot be resolved by visible light rays and thus are invisible by definition.”
X-ray crystallography is the most powerful technique for high resolutions studies of biological molecules since the wavelength of X-rays is short enough to allow distinction of inter-atomic bonds. The TCSB is equipped with a “diffractometer” to illuminate crystals and measure the X-rays they scatter. “By identifying the unique scattering of each crystal, we hope to unravel the molecular structure that gave rise to its crystal,” explains Dr. Dvir. “Our ability to ‘see’ invisible objects is not only exciting and highly informative in itself, but also of tremendous medical importance when it comes to looking at interaction between a drug and its destination target in the body” he added.
The process of solving a three-dimensional structure can be time consuming and challenging, and its success depends on the brightness of the X-ray source among other things. The substantial improvement in the brightness of X-rays produced at TCSB now allows in-house high-resolution structure determination without having to rely on external sources such as synchrotron facilities located in several places around the world.
The Center is also equipped with advanced robotic systems for crystallization of biological macromolecules, as well as high-end microscopic imaging for tracking crystal growth.
The inauguration of TCSB took place on March 3, 2014 in the presence of the guest of honor, Professor Ada Yonath, the 2009 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry.
In the photo: Dr. Hay Dvir at the new Center for Structural Biology.
Photo taken by: The Technion’s Spokesperson’s Office