ISISBio:Internal/LSS Reports/071029

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Bioscience Report for LSS group meeting – 29/10/07 – C Neylon

Personnel Resource

Interviewing for two permanent staff positions in sample preparation and data analysis on December 3. Sample support position will be interviewed by SL, CN, SH, and Steve Wakefield. Data analysis position will be interviewed by SL, CN, Marc Malfois, and RKH. The overall field of applicants was disappointing. There are one or two good candidates for both positions but whether they will accept the position is currently unclear. There may be a need for significant negotiation on this.

Biolabs (TS-1 and TS-2)


Power is supposed to be fitted for centrifuge and autoclave this week and the process of equipment setup is scheduled to start next week. We aim to finalise access and training arrangements in advance of a Biological Safety Committee meeting on 12 December which we will ask to approve formally that work starts. Currently the outstanding issues are; equipment set up (electricity), damage to floor which needs to be patched, formal policy on access and training to be finalised, detailed waste disposal arrangments to be finalised. We still aim to make an initial start on work before Christmas and then to start with some internal (ISIS staff) users in January/February.

We now have a fluorescence plate reader, and temperature controlled extruder. We expect to have a freeze dryer in place sometime in the next few weeks. The tender for an LC-MS system is out and a number of suppliers have made enquiries with several offering plausible systems. Where these pieces of equipment will go is something of a challenge. The plate reader will just about fit in the existing lab. The extruder can be kept in a cupboard. The LC-MS is a much bigger problem. It will probably need to sit in Milton Park until the move to R80 after which it would be set up in the existing biolab.


Discussions have been held with Waldner on the detailed design of the R80 biolab and we are awaiting plans and drawings back from them. The plan optimises bench space and flexibility as far as is possible but there is limited space available. The central problem is that equipment is taking up a lot of floor/bench space and this limits the amount of free bench space for people to work on. Our current plan is to attempt to manage this by leaving some analytical equipment and the fermentor in the existing biolab after the move. Short of replicating a large quantity of equipment in both labs it will be difficult to split the activity in a sensible fashion but analytical work can generally be separated from sample preparation.

Science and general

Research Network on Biomembrane Structure and Function

Have discussed the response to this with Bill David. Key messages were that with Diamond effectively not supporting the majority of proposals and with limited money available we have been given ‘pump-priming’ money and will be invited to re-submit next year. The idea of focussing on the funding of studentships was poorly received and the emphasis is expected to be on meetings and visiting scientists. I still feel that this is misguided in terms of developing both the specific area of membrane biology and biosciences more generally. However the strong message was that if studentships were required then funding should be sought from other sources.

Bearing this in mind I am looking at co-sponsoring a meeting of the European Membrane Project (EMeP) consortium to be coordinated with Peter Henderson (Leeds). This should be an easy win in that there is an existing, well funded, group who would be meeting anyway. We can provide some funding for the meeting and also provide speakers to highlight capabilities within STFC/Harwell campus. It may also be possible to squeeze some additional support out of Diamond. This would in any case be a relatively small investment. In parallel with this I hope to fund a visit for someone from Peter Sligar’s group. This group has developed membrane ‘nanodiscs’ which are monodisperse, well defined membrane fragments, into which controlled numbers of protein molecules can be inserted. They offer significant potential as a sample technology for SANS experiments on membrane proteins. There also seems to be little structural data on the nanodiscs in solution so this may interest their group. The object will be fund a 4-6 month visit by a member of the lab to RAL to teach us how to make and use the nanodiscs. It may also be possible to leverage this to get money from BBSRC for technology development to pay for e.g. a technician to learn how to do this and then be available to transfer these skills to others.

If we can put this in place I think we will have a good case for going back in 12 months time and asking for a larger tranche of money.

Visit to ORNL/Nist

CN/SMK/JR went to CanSAS-V meeting which will be covered separately. CN went on to ORNL to see efforts in both instrumentation development at HFIR and SNS as well as ancilliary projects. Bio-deuteration is coming along and taking small numbers of users but is expected to expand with the growing number of instruments. BIOSANS instrument at HFIR is in commissioning and is expected to be ‘better than D11, probably not as good as D22’. 15m instrument with Qmin of 0.002Ǻ-1. Second materials SANS beamline and two currently empty beamports on the new cold source at HFIR. Aiming to put a LADI-III type instrument on one of the beamports which would provide complementary capabilities to MaNDi on SNS. Liquids reflectometer at SNS is functioning but currently hasn’t been used for liquid interfaces. The SNS building is very cramped and the requirement to use concrete shielding means some serious compromises have been made with respect to future flexibility e.g. to put a large sample environment on the reflectometer requires three separate crane lifts. ORNL has a number of other large scale infrastructure projects ongoing including ~$1G on alternative energy/biofuels, a $100M Centre for Nanophase Materials Structure, and a large building programme. The CNMS houses a user programme in the broad area of nanotechnology. Of particular interest is a user programme in polymer synthesis and applications including deuterated monomers and polymers. These facilities (as well as HFIR and SNS) are notionally available to international users on the usual applications basis.

Website for information on BioSAS and reflection

Made no real progress on this.

Chem Phys review of neutron instruments and sources in biology

A partial second draft version of review for special issue of Chemical Physics has been seen and was returned rapidly with some minor comments to Susan Teixeira (ILL). We are expecting a final view of this before submission but apparently it’s very late so it may go straight in. I can circulate copies of the draft I have seen if anyone is concerned.

Neutrons in Biology meeting

Still waiting to finalise finances as am waiting on all internal bills to come through the system to finalise costs and claim back some costs from NMI3.