A new five-year collaboration agreement is now in place between The Pirbright Institute and Diamond Light Source, which aims to enable scientists to study viral diseases in greater detail. The new relationship will bring together two internationally renowned institutions that form an essential part of the UK’s national capabilities, and represents a conscious effort to increase research resilience and innovation identified by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Programme.
The agreement will see Pirbright’s Head of Bioimaging, Professor Pippa Hawes, split her time between the two research sites in order to help prepare Pirbright research projects for high resolution electron microscopy and to contribute to Diamond’s user programmes and development initiatives.
There are many scientific questions that can be answered using Diamond’s advanced microscopes, which have driven the recent ‘resolution revolution’. Projects that involve understanding the cell biology of virus-host interactions as well as how viruses replicate are particularly well suited for these techniques. Professor Hawes, with an established track-record in imaging virally infected animal cells and tissue, says:
“There is a lot of preparatory work that can be carried out at Pirbright with our microscopes. We can use them to really define the questions we need to answer and then ensure we have samples prepared in a way that will maximise their use at Diamond. I am hoping this collaboration between Pirbright and Diamond will help me guide our researchers through this process to achieve the best results and will enable them to answer critical questions and progress their research.”
Diamond, the UK’s national synchrotron, has an embedded cryo-electron microscope facility, known as Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC), providing a world leading unique offer to researchers. Prof Dave Stuart FRS, MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford and Life Sciences Director at Diamond Light Source adds:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to build and expand on our great relationship with Pirbright, helping to drive forward infectious disease studies. Working together, this strategic collaboration in bioimaging, is key to tackling 21st century challenges, in this instance animal diseases which have a tremendous worldwide impact on farming and economies.”
eBIC houses powerful transmission electron microscopes capable of solving protein molecular structures to below 0.3 nm resolution. Scientists at Pirbright have previously used and are still actively using these instruments to view the outer shell of the new vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease, enabling rational design of a new vaccine. This vaccine was recently licensed for further development.
Professor Bryan Charleston, Director of Pirbright, remarks: “A long and productive association between Pirbright and Diamond exists that has resulted in vital research developments such as the visualisation of the FMDV capsid, bluetongue virus and bovine antibody structures. We hope this agreement will aid our ambition to understand the biology of high consequence viruses and expand the range of programmes exploring solutions to control current and emerging problems.”
Notes to editors
For more information please contact:
The Pirbright Institute:
+44 (0) 1483 231120.
Diamond Light Source:
Lorna Campbell +44 7836 625999
Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke +44 1235 778130
About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council part of UK Research and Innovation (BBSRC UKRI), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
With an annual income in excess of £35 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £12.6 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2018-2019, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
About Diamond Light Source: www.diamond.ac.uk
Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, providing industrial and academic user communities with access to state-of-the-art analytical tools to enable world-changing science. Shaped like a huge ring, it works like a giant microscope, accelerating electrons to near light speeds, to produce a light 10 billion times brighter than the Sun, which is then directed off into 33 laboratories known as ‘beamlines’. In addition to these, Diamond offer access to several integrated laboratories including the Electron Bio-imaging Centre (eBIC) and the Electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (ePSIC).
Diamond serves as an agent of change, addressing 21st century challenges such as disease, clean energy, food security and more. Since operations started, more than 14,000 researchers from both academia and industry have used Diamond to conduct experiments, with the support of approximately 700 world-class staff. More than 8,000 scientific articles have been published by our users and scientists.
Funded by the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and by the Wellcome Trust, Diamond is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, and its pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.