The Anonymous Widower

The Diamond Light Source And COVID-19

Deep in the Oxfordshire countryside on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, there is this large building.

It is around twenty-eight metres across and is houses the Diamond Light Source.

When you are in a war, military commanders call up their largest and most powerful weapons, when they are up against it.

Think about Barnes Wallis‘s weapons of the Second World War; the bouncing bomb and the ten-tonne Grand Slam bomb.

The Diamond Light Source is described on its web site like this.

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Another section on their web site details the cost.

Diamond’s construction was funded by its two shareholders, the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which has contributed 86% of the investment, and the Wellcome Trust charity, which has a 14% stake in the facility.

Diamond’s construction is taking place in phases. Phase I cost £263 million and included the synchrotron machine itself, the surrounding buildings and the first seven experimental stations or beamlines. This phase was completed on time, on budget and to specifications in January 2007. Phase II funding of £120 million for a further 15 beamlines and a detector development programme was confirmed in October 2004 and completed in 2012. Diamond can potentially host up to 40 beamlines so there will be continual construction within the main building.

In the first year of operations (2007/8) Diamond’s operational costs were £23 million, in 2012/13, with 22 beamlines the operational costs were £40 million. As we enhance the facility by adding new beamlines the operational costs will increase. However, the more beamlines we have, the more cost effective we become, as the cost of running the machine is shared by a growing number of experimental stations.

It looks like capital costs were nearly £400 million, with yearly running costs of £40 million.

Earlier in the week, The Times detailed the work that Diamond was doing with British scientists and Chinese samples from Wuhan to find out the structure of the the COVID-19. The article said this.

A beam of light in an Oxfordshire laboratory that is ten billion times brighter than the Sun has been illuminating an object ten billion times smaller than a pinhead (Tom Whipple writes). In the shadows it produces may lie clues to defeating coronavirus.

The Diamond Light Source at the Harwell campus near Didcot is one of the most sophisticated microscopes in the world. Gwyndaf Evans, the principal beamline scientist, said that over the past three weeks there had been one goal — looking for ways to thwart coronavirus.

And I thought, Gwndaf Evans was a successful Welsh rally-car driver.

The Diamond Light Source web sire has a page for the Public on its research into coronavirus.

Read this page and certainly the last section, which is entitled What Is The Scientific World Concentrating On With The Current Outbreak of COVID-19?, where this is said.

The COVID-19 outbreak is at a critical stage, the WHO suggests that China, through tough and effective containment has bought other countries more time. This is the third bat-derived coronavirus to cause outbreaks of human disease in less than 20 years, and the most serious. 

The response to COVID-19 has been remarkable: first reports of an unknown pneumonia were on 31st December 2019 and by 11th January, six virus sequences were made available. Structural biologists moved extraordinarily quickly, getting synthetic genes made immediately, rushing to pick them up the day they were finished, and in less than a month, on 5th Feb the first structure, of the main protease was released by the PDB, from Zihe Rao and Haitao Yang’s team at ShanghaiTech. By then these coordinates had already been distributed by the team to 300 groups. In addition by this point, the protein had been used for in vitro assays and a collection of licenced drugs with potential antiviral activity had been identified and made available publicly.

Indeed by now, 35 clinical trials have been started, with the first just closed, so the first results should start to emerge quickly. However, these are re-purposed compounds, the route to tailor-made molecules will be longer but scientists across the world are working to find these.

I am heartened by what I have read today and feel that we are making progress towards at least winning a battle against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Only Research Other User Operations Suspended

This is the headline on one of the latest news pages on the Diamond Light Source web site, where this is said.

Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 Diamond Light Source wishes to minimise travel and the number of people on site, and we have in the first instance taken the decision to suspend user operations from our facilities until 28th April. A further extension of that period might become necessary, and we will keep users informed during the coming weeks.

However, it is still possible to run sessions remotely but only with samples connected with work associated with combating COVID-19 either through an already approved BAG or through the rapid access application.

Is Diamond concentrating all its immense muscle on COVID-19?

Conclusion

It looks like to get results you need teams of brilliant collaborating scientists and lots of money.

And all backed up by sophisticated tools, like the Diamond Light Source!

Is the world planning a bigger one?

Surely, as each of these viruses seems to get more deadly and more difficult to combat we will need it.

 

March 22, 2020 - Posted by | Health, World | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Lots and lots of work is going into creating a viable vaccine but it will still be a year to 18 months before suffic9wuantities can be produced to immunize 4 billion people.

    Comment by mauricegreed | March 22, 2020 | Reply

    • Argh typos! — sufficient quantities —

      Comment by mauricegreed | March 22, 2020 | Reply


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