21. December 2018

Boost for drug research: Science lists MicroED among Scientific Breakthroughs of the Year 2018

Updated on 15 January 2019

Research done by our collaborator, PSI scientist Tim Grüne, on Micro Electron Diffraction has made it into Science magazine’s top 5 Scientific Breakthroughs of the Year 2018. Published together with researchers from DECTRIS and Crystallise!, the celebrated article outlines a radically fast and efficient technique for the pharmaceutical industry to use when researching and creating new drugs.

Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has used X-rays to analyze small molecules. In order to yield good results, the compounds first need to be grown into large crystals, which can be difficult for some substances. Replacing X-rays with electrons lets researchers work with smaller, two-dimensional crystals — as long as these crystals don't stack atop one another and create imperfect three-dimensional crystals.

Now, however, we have rid ourselves of even this limitation: the research of Tim Grüne et al. successfully determined the atomic structure of three-dimensional nano-crystals using an electron diffractometer that had been created from the combination of a common transmission electron microscope and a DECTRIS EIGER X  detector. Even better, the technique produced results in mere minutes, whereas growing crystals of sufficient size for X-ray techniques could take as long as months. This is also in line with the results from the UCLA research team led by Dr. Tamir Gonen.

On January 22nd, Dr. Grüne will give a webinar on how he conducted the experiment.  You can sign up here to learn more about this scientific breakthrough.

The celebrated article by Grüne et al. will also be a platform presentation at the EMBL Industry Workshop: CryoEM in Industry and Academia in February.

Read more about Science’s Scientific Breakthroughs of the Year 2018

Read the paper: Rapid Structure Determination of Microcrystalline Molecular Compounds Using Electron Diffraction