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[SCAN] Portugal joins the CryoEM Resolution Revolution – the CryoEM-PT Network

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Pedro Matias

When 20 Sep, 2023 from
12:00 pm to 01:00 pm
Where ITQB NOVA Auditorium
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Title: Portugal joins the CryoEM Resolution Revolution – the CryoEM-PT Network

Speaker: Pedro Matias

From: Industry and Medicine Applied Crystallography, ITQB NOVA

Abstract: In 2017, the Chemistry Nobel Prize was awarded to three scientists who made significant contributions to the development of electron microscopy of cryogenic biological samples: Jacques Dubochet from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York, USA, and Richard Henderson from the University of Cambridge in the UK. New methods for sample vitrification and image processing, combined with the development of new detectors and electron sources provided a quantum leap in the level of detail that can be obtained. For example, single particle analysis can now be applied to determine the 3D structures of biological molecules and their complexes that are impossible to obtain by X-ray crystallography, at a level of detail (resolution) that is comparable to what can be achieved using X-ray diffraction.

Although several electron microscopes existed in Portugal in 2017, none was suitable for cryoelectron microscopy, and a team of researchers from many different Universities and Research Institutions began an initiative to secure funding for the purchase of a cryoelectron microscope. Since this required an investment of several M€, it was quickly realized that the creation of a National Facility was the only option for bringing the Resolution Revolution to Portugal.

Several meetings with Regional Development Coordination Commissions and the then Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education Prof. Manuel Heitor resulted in the creation of CryoEM-PT - The National Advanced Microscopy Network for Health and Life Sciences, that was included in the National Infrastructure Roadmap in 2019. CryoEM-PT was designed to include a central node where the microscope would be installed, as well as several regional nodes that would be equipped for sample preparation and data processing. The central node was to be located at the INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Braga, an institution already experienced in advanced electron microscopes, albeit more focused in material sciences.

In parallel, ITQB NOVA was awarded EU funds to carry out the IMpaCT Twinning Project under a H2020-WIDESPREAD-2018-2020 grant that allowed the training of several researchers from ITQB NOVA in the different methodologies available.

In late 2020 it was possible to secure funding to purchase a cryoelectron microscope. The tender was made in 2021 a ThermoFisher Glacios with a 200 kV electron source was acquired. The microscope was installed in late 2022, the kick-off meeting of the Network took place in February 2023 and the microscope is now available for use.

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