Structural Biology Shared Resource
The Structural Biology Shared Resource represents a coalescence of resources critical to the determination and utilization of structural information in addressing problems of significance in cancer research. With the sequencing of the major mammalian genomes, the frontier of biology has shifted from sequence to function and to the functional genomics and the closely related structural genomics initiatives. Developments in both hardware and software in computational technology allow the information intrinsic to a three-dimensional structure (e.g., the size, shape, electrostatic charge distribution, hydrophobic/hydrophilic characteristics of ligand binding sites on macromolecules) to be used for design of pharmaceutic agents.
The field of structure-based drug design has undergone cycles of acceptance by the pharmaceutical industry and biotech, but the type of information that comes out of such studies has been consistently of interest to academic scientists. Computational methods, termed molecular modeling or computational chemistry, are also now recognized as extremely powerful tools for predicting molecular architecture on the basis of sequence information. Interpretation of the consequences of mutagenesis is enhanced by orders of magnitude if structural information at atomic resolution is available.
The resource offers instrumentation, computer hardware and software, and support personnel for the determination of molecular structures and the utilization of structural information in cancer research. The shared resource encompasses three related components: X-ray Crystallography, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, and Molecular Modeling. These facilities are clustered in dedicated space to facilitate access and consultation with the support team. The Structural Biology Shared Resource also collaborates closely with the Biological Macromolecule Shared Resource, which can undertake the production and purification of proteins required for structural analysis.