The Anonymous Widower

The Diamond Light Source And PETase

When I was writing Diamond Synchrotron Sparkles And Shows Its Value To UK Economy, I came across a reference to PETase, in an article in Chemistry World, where this was said about the Diamond Light Source.

‘It is the facilities in the UK that really make the difference and make us a world leader,’ comments John McGeehan, professor of structural biology at the University of Portsmouth.

His team has used Diamond to study the bacterial enzyme PETase, which digests plastic. ‘Diamond’s I23 [long-wave macromolecular crystallography] beamline is unique in the world. It allowed us to solve the 3D structure of the PET-degrading enzyme, first found in plastic dumps in Japan in 2016. Three years ago it was the highest resolution image of the enzyme measured and remains so today. Having this information allows us to understand how the enzyme works, and how to make it work faster and better.’

As a result, the team has been able to visualise the active site of the enzyme and how it consumes plastic. The researchers discovered that the active site was slightly wider than cutinase, a similar enzyme that bacteria use to break down natural plant polyesters. ‘The technology leading from this research means plastic waste can be broken down and put back together into bottles (infinite recycling), or can be made into higher value products such as resins for wind turbine blades,’ says McGeehan. Patents are pending.

Note, that PET is polyethylene terephthalate, which is a very common plastic used to make fabric (Terylene/Dacron) and packaging.

Now that is what I call recycling!

October 24, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Diamond Synchrotron Sparkles And Shows Its Value To UK Economy

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Chemistry World, which is a monthly chemistry news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This is the first paragraph.

Diamond Light Source, the UK’s synchrotron, has generated a ‘fantastic return on investment’ since it became operational in 2007. That’s according to a new study that values its socio-economic impacts at around £1.8 billion with each taxpayer contributing £2.45 a year towards it.

If you read the article about the Diamond Light Source, you will find example applications where the synchroton has been used.

  • Non-destructive testing of materials and structures. Some have been over a metre in size and a tonne in weight.
  • Drug discovery and development.
  • A team from the University of Portsmouth has used Diamond to study the bacterial enzyme PETase, which digests plastic.
  • Rolls-Royce has used Diamond to examine the stresses in fan-blades.

The article also states that it has hosted 14,000 users.

With an energy of only 3 GeV, Diamond is not the most powerful synchrotron, but it is certainly one of the most sophisticated.

Related Posts

I have written about the Diamond Light Source in these posts.

The Diamond Light Source is a serious scientific tool, that ranks with the best in the world.

 

October 24, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Moonshot Is The Spanner In The Covid-19 Works The Country Needs

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This is the sub-title of the article.

Antivirals like molnupiravir are the third line in our long-term fight against coronavirus.

The article describes how scientists in Oxfordshire looked for an antiviral that could be Covid-19’s nemesis, which Tom Whipple called molecular kryptonite.

The American pharmaceutical[ molnupiravir has been the first antiviral to be licenced for Covid-19, but it is pricey.

But helped by the Diamond Light Source, it appears that, progress has been made in Oxfordshire.

Tom Whipple says this.

After 18 months of study they last week gained funding from the Wellcome Trust to narrow the options to one, in a project called Covid Moonshot.

And this.

The goal of Moonshot is a generic drug that is cheap, plentiful and, a stipulation of the project, off-patent from the beginning.

Has the Diamond Light Source has struck again?

The Diamond Light Source might have cost £ 400 million and needs a budget of £ 40 million a year to run, but it is certainly starting to pay back the investment.

 

 

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Diamond Light Source And Malaria

I had to put a link to this page on the Diamond Light Source web site, which is entitled Malaria in Action.

This is the introductory paragraph.

In 2007 Helen Saibil was at a conference in Australia. Amongst the presentations there happened to be talks on the parasites malaria and toxoplasma and how they infect mammalian cells, causing disease. Helen is a structural biologist and whilst listening she began to realise that her newly acquired skills -she was doing electron tomography of cells- might allow the researchers to see things they had never seen before.

The page describes the work of the Diamond Light Source to understand and lead the might against malaria.

January 20, 2021 Posted by | Health, World | , , | 3 Comments

What Will Oxford Do For An Encore?

In the UK, I suspect nearly all of us have watched in admiration, as Oxford University have developed a Covid-19 vaccine for the world.

So what will be the University’s next big medical breakthrough.

Antibiotics

Today, this article on the BBC web site, which is entitled Oxford Research Tackles Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance, was published.

This was the introductory sub-heading.

Oxford University is opening a new research institute dedicated to tackling resistance to antibiotics.

To start the funding INEOS has chipped in a cool £100 million.

This paragraph summarises the project.

There will be 50 researchers working in the new Ineos Oxford Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance, addressing the “over-use and mis-use” of antibiotics, which the university warned could cause 10 million excess deaths per year by 2050.

To put that ten million excess deaths into perspective, the Covid-19 pandemic has so far killed 2.05 million worldwide.

It should be remembered that David Cameron warned of this problem back in 2014, as was reported in this article on the BBC, which was entitled Antibiotic Resistance: Cameron Warns Of Medical ‘Dark Ages‘.

This was the introductory paragraph.

The world could soon be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine” unless action is taken to tackle the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

Will the Ineos Oxford Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance, solve one of the most pressing problems facing the modern world?

Malaria Vaccine

Sometime, this week I either read in The Times or heard someone say on the BBC, that Oxford would soon be starting trials for a malaria vaccine developed by the same team, who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19.

This wasn’t the article in The Times, that I read, as it is dated the 5th of December 2020, but it does have a title of Malaria Vaccine Another Success Story For Jenner Institute Team Behind Covid Jab.

This is the first three paragraphs.

The Oxford team behind the coronavirus jab has taken a big step towards producing a cheap and effective vaccine for malaria.

The Jenner Institute said that it was due to enter the final stage of human trials with its vaccine, which it hopes could combat the almost half a million annual deaths, mainly in children.

“It’s going to be available in very large amounts — it works pretty well. And it’s going to be very low-priced,” Adrian Hill, director of the institute, said.

This looks to me, exactly what the world needs.

I’ve also found this page on the Oxford University web site, which is entitled Designer Malaria Vaccines.

This is the first two paragraphs on the page.

Malaria is one of the deadliest human diseases, killing a child in Africa every two minutes. A vaccine is urgently needed, but this is has proved extremely challenging because the malaria parasite is a master of disguise, able to change its surface coat to escape detection by the human body. However, structural biology is raising hopes for a vaccine against this killer parasite.

In order to replicate and develop, the malaria parasite must get inside human red blood cells – something that depends upon a malaria protein called RH5. Unlike the other variable malaria surface proteins, RH5 does not vary, making it more easily recognised and destroyed.

There is also this YouTube video.

From the video it looks like Oxford have used the Diamond Light Source to help develop the vaccine, just as the facility has been used to investigate Covid-19, as I wrote about in The Diamond Light Source And COVID-19.

I have added a new page called The Diamond Light Source And Malaria, which points to information on the Diamond Light web site.

There is also this Saturday Interview in The Times with Professor Adrian Hill, who is the Director of the Jenner Institute, at the University of Oxford.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Adrian Hill knew that this would be a big year. As head of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, this was the year, if all went well, he would announce a final large-scale trial into a vaccine to prevent a disease that was ravaging swathes of the planet. And this week, he did just that. Just not for the disease you’re thinking of.

A century after scientific research on the topic began, 30 years after he started working on it and eight years after this version was tried he has, he believes, an effective malaria vaccine. Now he is ready to try it at scale.

The interview is a must-read.

This paragraph from the article compares Covid-19 and malaria.

In the past 20 years, conventional public health investment has averted an estimated 1.5 billion malaria cases. Still, in an ordinary year it is one of the world’s biggest killers of children. “Malaria is a public health emergency. A lot more people will die in Africa this year from malaria than will die from Covid,” he says. “I don’t mean twice as many — probably ten times.”

The numbers show why a vaccine for malaria is so important.

Conclusion

Oxford University appears to have tremendous ambition, to see both these projects through to a successful conclusion.

I believe that their success with the Covid-19 vaccine will have major effects.

  • People like Jim Ratcliffe and Bill and Melinda Gates, drug companies and charities like Wellcome Trust, will be prepared to fund more research.
  • World-class researchers from all over the world will be drawn to work on Oxford’s projects.
  • If Oxford or another group needs another powerful research tool, like the Diamond Light Source, the government will look favourably at the project.

People love to support winners! Just look at how kids follow the football team, at the top of the Premier League, when they first get interested in the game.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine is a success in the poorer countries of this world, that can’t afford the more expensive commercial vaccines, that this could change the world in bigger ways, than anybody imagines.

It could be extremely good not just for AstraZeneca, Oxford University and the UK, but the whole world. And not just in 2021, but in the future as well!

 

 

 

January 19, 2021 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 | , , , | 5 Comments

The Diamond Light Source And Ebola

The headline of Ibuprofen ‘disables’ Ebola virus, drew me to this article on the BBC’s web site. This is said.

The painkiller ibuprofen and the cancer drug toremifene can disable the Ebola virus, say researchers.

Scientists used the UK’s national synchrotron facility – Diamond Light Source – to analyse the virus in incredible detail.

They revealed the two drugs could bind to the crucial part of Ebola that the virus needs to infect cells.

It may be only a starting point, but it looks like a success for the Diamond Light Source. I am indebted to Wikipedia for this description of the Diamond Light Source.

Diamond Light Source (“Diamond”) is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose.

This is a UK-funded and based facility, I hope that, after Brexit, this type of scientific machine, which cost £260million will still be able to be funded.

 

 

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Health, World | , , , | 2 Comments