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NPL launches Cryo-transmission electron Microscopy laboratory

Today NPL launches its state-of-the-art Cryo-transmission electron Microscopy laboratory to establish metrology for engineering biology.

The new laboratory will enable researchers to determine the structural organisation of biological molecules and biomaterials with near atomic precision. The ability to identify and understand molecular structures at this level of resolution allows researchers to design and develop better diagnostics, therapies, biomaterials and biomanufacturing processes, placing this capability at the forefront of supporting science’s innovations.

As the UK’s National Metrology Institute, NPL plays a leading role in maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in translating life sciences research, accelerating access to new diagnosis and treatment techniques and helping to support the rapid adoption of advanced healthcare technologies across the country.

As well as providing support for experienced researchers, the new laboratory will enable NPL to work with organisations that are new to this technology, offering expertise and guidance through the sample preparation and analysis process, providing access to a range of cutting-edge measurement capabilities under one roof to support UK research.

The Cryo-EM facility is an example of NPL’s strategic commitment to supporting healthcare and life sciences research and development. It already supports the development of reference materials and reference measurement procedures for industry and NHS, and expands the range of  NPL’s measurement capabilities, including recently introduced crystallography and  optogenetics capabilities as well as 3D OrbiSIMS and Cryo – OrbiSIMS. The OrbiSIMS was pioneered at NPL and launched in 2016 and has since revolutionised label-free imaging of metabolites and sub-cellular resolution.

Cryo-electron microscopy has emerged over the last two decades as a technique capable of investigating challenging biological systems at high resolution, in label-free mode and in near-native conditions, thus overcoming some of the challenges associated with other structural characterisation methods, all without sacrificing resolution. This allows NPL to accelerate the development of reference materials supporting healthcare across complex applications including; gene therapy, differential diagnostics and vaccine development.

In terms of Gross Value Added to the UK economy, the bioeconomy is identified by the UK Government as a leading sector contributing to wealth. The new laboratory strengthens NPL’s infrastructure in providing the measurement science supporting the research and development that underpin the sector.

NPL recognises the importance of continuing to increase the capacity and resources to support the UK’s life science research community and this investment responds to the persistent demand for high-resolution biological measurements and the requirement for increased capacity for this revolutionary technology.

The Cryo-EM facility investment was made possible through funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Synthetic Biology Standards Project; financed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS). It contributes to NPL’s collaboration with the Synthetic Biology Industrial Accelerator (SynbiCITE) at Imperial College London (ICL).

Max Ryadnov, Science Area Leader, Biometrology, NPL states: “The cryo-EM facility is a milestone in the building of life sciences infrastructure at NPL. It enriches our offering in the bioeconomy sector and enables researchers in engineering biology to access expertise and metrology supported by the necessary resolution which will allow our teams to develop the higher order reference materials which will help drive data quality in this emerging field. We are excited about this new capability and the opportunity to build upon it in collaboration with leading research, industry and healthcare organisations.”

Find out more about the Cryogenic-electron Microscopy laboratory here.

19 Jan 2021