The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) maintains a research unit at DESY in Hamburg that operates a purpose-built, integrated research facility for structural biology. Its three state-of-the-art measuring stations enable researchers to use the exceptional properties of the X-ray radiation delivered by PETRA III for innovative applications in the life sciences.

In the new facility, all the steps involved – from high-throughput protein crystallization and sample preparation to data processing – can be performed under one roof. This combination decidedly speeds up research on molecules that make the difference between human health and disease.

Structural biology at PETRA III

When biologists want to explore fundamental processes in cells or proteins, they often rely on physical methods. One of the most important techniques is X-ray structure analysis, whereby researchers expose proteins to intense X-ray radiation to decipher their structure and mode of operation. This makes it possible, for example, to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of tuberculosis, one of the most dangerous infectious diseases. At PETRA III, EMBL is studying the tuberculosis bacterium, among others, in order to determine possible points of action for new medicines.

In the future, the experts intend to intensify their efforts at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB), an interdisciplinary research institute on the DESY campus. Their common goal is to investigate with atomic resolution how pathogens attack.