• VMXi Beamline to Boost Advances in Biomedical Research
    HRH The Princess Royal with Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO, Diamond Light Source
  • HRH The Princess Royal meets John McGeehan of the University of Portsmouth (left) and Juan Sanchez-Weatherby of Diamond Light Source (right).

News & Views

VMXi Beamline to Boost Advances in Biomedical Research

Feb 20 2017

Ten years after HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened the Diamond Light Source, HRH The Princess Royal attended a ceremony on Feb 8th to mark both the anniversary of the facility and the opening of Diamonds latest structural biology beamline, the Versatile Macromolecular crystallography in situ (VMXi) beamline – currently the only one of its kind worldwide.

A transformation of the I02 beamline, the VMXi beamline is solely dedicated to in situ X-ray measurements and has the capacity to store and carry out thousands of user crystallisation experiments under one roof. The first academic and industrial users from the University of Portsmouth and AstraZeneca collected the first ever data on this beamline on December 19th.

Thomas Sorensen, science leader for the VMXi beamline said; “We have transformed one of Diamonds original structural beamlines into a completely new ‘beast’. The whole process of characterisation and data collection from samples has been fully automated enabling users to interact remotely with the beamline and request X-ray analysis without the need for their direct participation in the X-ray experiment. This allows for the study of crystals as they emerge and for the collection of data from all crystals, including those that are too fragile to handle and those that cannot be cryo-cooled. This beamline is a real game changer.”

Professor John McGeehan, Co-Director Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Science at University of Portsmouth added: “Researchers from our institute work closely with Diamond on several important life science projects. Crystallisation is often a very long and iterative process where initial promising conditions are optimised until crystals suitable for the diffraction experiments are obtained. For challenging biological systems, this crystallisation process can be very complex indeed. This is where the new VMXi beamline will really help by hosting crystallisation experiments at the beamline and enable direct diffraction analysis without any additional manipulation, thus preserving the crystal integrity - and provide immediate feedback on crystal quality and parameters, even in the case of microcrystals (2-5 μm). With this insight, users like ourselves can progress their crystallisation experiments in a more rational way – and for some projects finally make some progress.”

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