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Making the structure of life crystal clear

26 March 2008

Professor Huber and Professor Bochtler

Professor Robert Huber, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, has overseen the creation of a new crystallography laboratory, offering a new dimension to all life science research at Cardiff.

Several schools are already in discussion about projects using the new resources, with Professor Huber acting in an advisory capacity. Research in the laboratory is led by Dr Matthias Bochtler, who has been appointed Director of Structural Biology at the University and is a leading young scientist in this area internationally.

Professor Huber, who won his Nobel Prize in 1988, spearheads the development of Structural Biology at the University, which has involved the Schools of Biosciences, Chemistry, Medicine, Optometry and Pharmacy. Structural Biology aims to determine the structure of proteins and their interactions with each other and with other molecules in cells, and has major implications in the study of many diseases.

Professor Huber said: "To understand the molecular basis of any biological process you need sooner or later to see what the components of the process look like. Without seeing them in basic atomic detail, it doesn’t work.

"There were dozens of projects that Schools were working on, some involving external collaboration, where they would have liked to have had this facility in house."

As a result, a modern crystallography laboratory has been established in Main Building. The laboratory enables protein crystals to be created in sufficient amount for them to be taken for analysis under an X-ray generator.

Meanwhile the search for a Director resulted in the appointment of Dr Bochtler, a leading international expert in the field. He has been Max-Planck-Society research group leader at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw for the last eight years. Like Professor Huber, Dr Bochtler is affiliated with both the School of Biosciences and of Chemistry.

In the long term, there are plans to expand the work of the laboratory further to include other forms of imaging including high field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and electron microscopy.

Any researchers who feel the protein crystallography laboratory could be useful to them, should contact Dr Bochtler on