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NSF Pumps $25M into U of Buffalo-led X-ray Laser, Bioimaging Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has awarded $25 million to fund a new center at the University of Buffalo that will use X-ray bioimaging technologies to analyze molecular targets for their use as therapeutic drugs, NSF said yesterday.

UB will host the new Center for Biology with X-ray Laser (BioXFEL), and will partner with eight other research universities and institutes on the center's research programs. Those partners include Arizona State University; Cornell University; Stanford University; the University of California, San Francisco; UC-Davis, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Rice University; and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI).

The BioXFEL center will use new bioimaging techniques, including a type of X-ray crystallography called serial femtosecond crystallography, and an X-ray, free-electron laser (XFEL) to analyze protein crystals.

Developed by Stanford University researchers, the XFEL technology generates radiation "with laser-like properties at X-ray wavelengths," NSF Chemistry of Life Processes Program Manager David Rockliffe said in a statement.

"With [the XFEL], the center will provide the biology research community with tools to study an enormous number of biological systems that are currently inaccessible by current X-ray methods. Once the center develops the measurement tools to fully utilize the XFEL source, the scientific payoffs are expected to be extraordinary," Rockliffe added.

NSF said the XFEL technology will enable researchers to analyze crystals 1,000 times smaller than the ones they are able to study now using current crystallography techniques.

UB Professor Eaton Lattman, who also serves as CEO of HWI, will be director of the BioXFEL center.

"We will be developing new techniques for making movies of molecular machines at work, and of viruses and biomolecules in their natural wet environment undergoing chemical change," John Spence, a professor at Arizona State University and director of science at the new BioXFEL center, said in a statement from ASU.