Proteins are critical components of all living organisms, and understanding protein structure and function has led to new insights in biosciences and biotechnology, enabling new treatments for a host of diseases, from influenza to HIV and various cancers.
These advances have been delivered by a transformation in the power and throughput of analytic methods in recent years, leading to a rapidly growing knowledge of the human genome and proteome. However, researchers interpreting protein structure and function have a supply and demand problem: proteins of interest are being identified far faster than they can be produced for analysis, causing a bottleneck in how quickly their function can be deciphered.
Protein Production UK (PPUK) aims to relieve this bottleneck. A cutting edge national hub for protein sample production, the facility will develop new, efficient and effective methods of producing specimens for integrated structural biology, as part of the ‘Structural biology’ theme’s remit to revolutionise how samples are produced, stabilised, delivered and transferred.
“PPUK is going to come up with new ways of tacking the problem of sample preparation in its broadest sense.” Professor Ray Owens, PPUK Principal Scientist.
This work will bring new synergistic technology platforms to the user community, and build on foundations laid down by PPUK’s predecessor – the Oxford Protein Production Facility – which developed workflows for high throughput cloning, expression and purification of recombinant proteins. New advances will include the production of single domain antibodies and macrocyclic compounds for the structural and functional analysis of proteins, in particular stabilisation of flexible channels or complexes for structure determination by cryo-electron microscopy. These advances will be key to allowing researchers to interrogate proteins and their interactions over a wide range of length and time scales, and therefore exploit the information generated from the omics revolution.
In order to transform protein sample preparation, PPUK will require expertise from biology, biochemistry, materials science and a host of other areas. These researchers will be based both at the Harwell campus, as well as Spoke universities and partner institutions. In addition, PPUK will work with industry partners in both developing and exploiting any innovations created, while the other RFI themes and wider structural biology community will benefit from the core platform PPUK will ultimately develop, which will offer high throughput and high quality samples to interrogate – a key factor in accelerating structural biology research and ultimately the development of new drugs.