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For a Cryo-electron microscopy facility in Portugal

11 Portuguese institutions come together for a common goal

Oeiras, 20.04.2018

Today in Braga, 11 Portuguese research institutions come together with companies and policy makers, to discuss the benefits of building the first national consortium that can bring Cryo electron microscopy to Portugal.

The Nobel Chemistry Prize in 2017 was awarded to Joachim Frank, Richard Henderson and Jacques Dubochet for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution. Classic electron microscopy has the promise of delivering images of biological materials such as individual biomolecules or biomolecular complexes with atomic detail. However, the high energy of the electron beam is extremely damaging and the biological samples are destroyed before these images can be obtained. With cryo-electron microscopy, the samples (biomolecules, cells and biological tissues) are gently frozen to minimize damage and a low-intensity high-energy electron beam is used with highly sensitive detectors. This new method has revolutionized our understanding of the biochemistry of living organisms, by allowing a direct visualization of processes that could only be inferred through indirect methods.

Access to this technique by Portuguese researchers is presently very limited, since there are no high-end cryo-electron microscopes in the country. Hence, the creation of a national facility that will serve all institutes nationwide will have a major impact in biological sciences research, allowing the development of new projects with high scientific, technological and societal impact.

We will be able to go deeper in our understanding of cells and molecules, for basic science research, but also to use it to develop more effective drugs that can selectively act on target”, according to Pedro Matias, leader of Industry and Medicine Applied Crystallography Laboratory at ITQB NOVA. “It will be a huge investment, but the returns will certainly exceed it”.


Further reading in the media

Onze universidades juntam-se para criar centro português de criomicroscopia electrónica, Pedro Matias interview on the 2017 Chemistry Nobel Prize, Público, 4.10.2017

Cientistas portugueses querem importar tecnologia que venceu Nobel da Química, Rádio Comercial, 4.10.2017

Criomicroscopia electrónica: colocar Portugal na vanguarda das áreas de biologia e saúde, opinion by Paulo Ferreira, Pedro Matias, Sandra Ribeiro, Bruno Silva and Erin Tranfield, Público, 18.04.2018

Onze universidades e centros de investigação querem criar primeiro Centro Nacional de Criomicroscopia Eletrónica. E custa €10 milhões, Expresso, 19.04.2018

Investigadores querem Centro de Criomicroscopia no INL, Rádio Universitária do Minho, 19.04.2018

Cientistas da NOVA integram projeto para criação do primeiro Centro Nacional de Criomicroscopia Eletrónica, Site Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 20.04.2018


Institutions involved

  • ITQB NOVA and FCT, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência
  • Laboratório Ibérico Internacional de Nanotecnologia
  • Universidade do Minho
  • Universidade do Algarve
  • Universidade de Coimbra
  • Universidade de Lisboa
  • Universidade da Beira Interior
  • Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge
  • Fundação Champalimaud
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