The Pirbright Institute and Diamond to collaborate

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A new five-year collaboration agreement is now in place between Diamond and The Pirbright Institute, 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 Bio-imaging, 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.”

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