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Creation of the “Integrated Structural Biology, Grenoble (ISBG)” mixed research institute

The Unité Mixte de Service (mixed research institute) UMS 3518 (CNRS-CEA-UJF-EMBL) was created on January 1st 2013, in Grenoble. This new unit brings together facilities from the IBS and UVHCI, and represents an impressive collection of state-of-the-art equipment for integrated structural biology. The unit is open to national and international scientific communities, as well as industry.

Published on 21 January 2013

​Development of integrated structural biology at the Grenoble and European scale

The new challenge in structural biology is to understand biological processes at the molecular level in a cellular context (or even broader). To accomplish this, integrated structural biology is based on a collection of high-tech experimental approaches, and requires equipment (synchrotron radiation, high-field NMR, cryo-electron tomography) that is sometimes expensive. This also involves multidisciplinary expertise (biology, physics, chemistry) ranging from the production of samples to their characterization (structure, assembly and architecture, dynamics, function, interactions, etc.). Thanks to the presence of large equipment, Grenoble pioneered these approaches and established the PSB (Partnership for Structural Biology) as early as 2002, linking the ESRF, ILL, EMBL and IBS research teams; more recently, they have been joined by teams from the UVHCI [1]. This first step has made possible the pooling of resources, and new concerted developments.

In general, it is now accepted that this type of biology requires a collection of facilities corresponding to the equivalent of large instruments. The aim of the European initiative ESFRI is to establish such infrastructures. Within this context, the project Instruct (Integrating Structural Biology), which began in 2011, defines 15 reference centers for integrated structural biology in Europe and 5 affiliated centers. Grenoble, and more specifically the combination of the two French units of the PSB (IBS and UVHCI), represents one of the major reference centers for Instruct.

The project FRISBI (French Infrastructure for Integrated Structural Biology), comprised of the two French Instruct centers (Grenoble and Strasbourg) as well as three other nationally important structural biology centers, was selected as part of the program “Investissement d’Avenir”. Grenoble has thus received 11.2 million € to support major improvements in most of the PSB facilities, notably including the purchase of new NMR spectrometers and electron microscopes

The missions of the new UMS

PSB’s mode of concerted decision making, sufficient for a local pooling of facilities, needed to be formalized to meet the needs of the scientific community. The boundaries of the facilities, associated personnel, modes of operation and types of services for each facility, as well as access conditions (selection of projects, costs, management, etc.) have been specified for the different users. All technological facilities from the IBS thus obtained in July 2011 the ISO 9001 certification for their activities in production and purification of proteins, the characterization of their structure and biophysical properties, dynamics and assembly by X-ray, NMR and microscopy.

Darren Hart (EMBL) has been appointed director of the new Unité Mixte de Service, and is assisted by Yvette Gaude in financial administration. The governance of the UMS will involve the management of IBS and UVHCI within a local steering committee. The vast majority of scientific and technical personnel working at the facilities will keep their affiliation with the IBS and UVHCI research teams, to allow the best possible interaction between facility and research. The equipment present on the day of the creation of the UMS will thus evolve according to the needs of scientific projects and the UMS will ensure the sustained operation of the facilities by guaranteeing optimum access to all types of users.

[1] European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Institut de Biologie Structurale (IBS), Unit of Virus Host Cell Interactions (UVHCI)

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