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X-ray Crystallography
Corporate news // 11.04.2024

April 7, 2024

BADEN, April 7, 2024 - On the World Health Day, we commemorate the global impact of our technology, enabling structural biologists worldwide to make important breakthroughs in public health. 

Since the first PILATUS X-ray detector revolutionized biological research at synchrotron light sources over fifteen years ago, progress in life sciences, drug discovery and drug development accelerated, including the development of vaccines. This faster, more structure-based approach to do biological research led to many important discoveries. As a pioneering technique in Structural Biology, Macromolecular Crystallography functioned as a catalyst for scientists to identify the structures of macromolecules, such as proteins, DNA, or RNA. Determining the macromolecules’ structures is key for understanding their biological function, and therefore for aiding drug design and development.

DECTRIS Ltd, global developer and manufacturer of Hybrid Photon Counting detectors for X-ray and Electron Microscopy research, has enabled with its two detector series, PILATUS and EIGER, the determination of around 59,000 structures in total. In 2023, 81% of the X-ray structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) were collected with these detectors, as compared to those that were identified using other X-ray detection technologies (CCD or CMOS). To celebrate World Health Day, we want to commemorate the impact of this leading application of X-ray research in the field of Life Sciences, and to describe its use in academic and private laboratories before samples are studied in more detail at synchrotrons.

In the pharmaceutical industry, powerful laboratory diffractometers are essential for pharmaceutical research, development and quality control during production. They allow for all aspects of the experiment to be under full control and for decisions to be made quickly. Among others, Astex Pharmaceutical in the UK, Array Biopharma in the US, and Novo Nordisk in Denmark are all productive with state-of-the-art diffractometers with EIGER R 1M or PILATUS3 R 1M detectors.

In drug development, researchers from the laboratory of Prof. Martin Safo at Virginia Commonwealth University studied the structure-function relationship of hemoglobin. Their goal was to develop an anti-sickling agent against sickle cell disease, a hereditary blood disorder that is associated with anemia, infections, episodes of pain, and delayed growth and development.

The fight against Trypanosoma diseases, such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease, and leishmaniasis also requires X-ray research in laboratories. These diseases, which pose serious health problems in developing countries, are caused by trypanosomes, protozoans characterized by a unique trypanothione redox system. Prof. Emil Pai‘s group in a laboratory at the University of Toronto studied trypanothione reductase inhibitors, an attractive class of ligands that is inactive against organisms with conventional glutathione redox systems.

Drugs for fighting blood cancers can also be designed after structural enzymology studies. Dr. Alexander Wlodawer’s team in a laboratory at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick studied the catalytic mechanism of L-asparaginases. These are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of the amino acid asparagine into aspartate. They are clinically important for the treatment of certain leukemias and lymphomas. 

To summarize, Macromolecular Crystallography is a powerful technique that facilitates research on molecules, from their structure and function to the design of suitable drugs. Together with the evolution of other Structural Biology methods, Macromolecular Crystallography will continue to advance research in Life Sciences and in the pharmaceutical industry.



DECTRIS develops and manufactures the most accurate X-ray and electron cameras to spark scientific breakthroughs around the world. While photographic cameras capture visible light, DECTRIS cameras count individual X-ray photons and electrons. DECTRIS is the global market leader at synchrotrons. Our efficient detector systems help scientists achieve high-quality results also in their laboratories. Our detectors played for example a decisive role in the determination of the structures of the coronavirus. The DECTRIS electron detectors create unique opportunities in material science, and we offer novel solutions for medical applications. We support researchers everywhere from our offices in Switzerland, Japan and the United States.


About this article

Parts of this article were written by DECTRIS former structural biochemist Andreas Förster in February 2020, a year before he sadly passed away after losing his battle against cancer. By bringing his research back four years after, we also pay tribute to him and to his important contributions in the field of crystallography and structural biology.


About Macromolecular Crystallography

Macromolecular Crystallography (MX) is the most powerful method for determining the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules. It tends to achieve the highest-resolution information and gives the most reliable structures, while not suffering from limitations on sample size - as long as crystals are available.


Contact Information

Press Contact

Dr. Clara Demin

Senior Communications Manager

+41 (0) 56 500 31 51


Contact for interview

Dr. Sofia Trampari

Application Scientist, X-Ray Crystallography



Structural biology in the pharmaceutical industry

  • J. B. Fell et al., ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 9, 1230-1234 (2018)

  • T. D. Heightman et al., J. Med. Chem. 62, 4683-4702 (2019)

  • A. M. Kidger et al., Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, online first (2019)

  • A. Oddo et al., Biochemistry. 57, 4148-4154 (2018)


Sickle-cell disease

  • T. M. Deshpande et al., Acta Cryst D. 74, 956-964 (2018)

  • A. Nakagawa et al., Molecular Pharmaceutics. 15, 1954-1963 (2018)

  • P. P. Pagare et al., Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 26, 2530-2538 (2018)

    6DI4, 6BNR, 6BWP, 6BWU (EIGER R 4M).


Trypanosoma diseases

  • R. De Gasparo et al., Chemistry-A European Journal. 25, 11416-11421 (2019)



  • J. Lubkowski et al., Protein Science. 28, 1850-1864 (2019)

  • J. Lubkowski et al., Scientific Reports. 9 (2019)

Corporate news // 04.03.2024

Today at DECTRIS, we celebrate UNESCO’s fifth World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. We highlight the critical roles of our engineers in building high-performing detectors to advance science and progress toward a sustainable future. 

At DECTRIS, we have more than ten Engineering specializations across the whole product life cycle. Over 50 highly specialized and skilled engineers are actively involved in the process. They develop software, electronic circuits, and mechanical and IT solutions; they bring in expertise during production; and, finally, they commission our detectors in research facilities worldwide. These engineers and roles correspond to more than a third of our total employees.

As a Swiss high-tech company manufacturing X-ray and electron detectors for synchrotron radiation facilities and laboratories, we have included sustainable development in our vision. We strive to be a sustainable, independent, and trusting company that anticipates the needs of scientists and engineers around the world.


The Voices of Our Engineers

Hear the voices of our engineers, working in Operations, Development, and Marketing & Sales.


Simon Zimmer, Process Engineer: 

“Curiosity, Innovation, and a Sustainable Future”

Simon Zimmer, a Process Engineer and member of the Compliance and Sustainability Team, explains his passion for his job: "My journey into Engineering was fueled by a curiosity to understand how things work. I am driven by a commitment to using that knowledge to engineer a thriving and sustainable future. Together, let's engineer a sustainable tomorrow".


Pavel Novak, Facility and Equipment Engineer:

“I see a future in which we will have to rely on simpler, less complex systems”

Pavel is responsible for performing maintenance and building automation at DECTRIS; this includes installation of special machines such as X-ray boxes. He also monitors our energy consumption and, last year, provided data for a tool to monitor our environmental impact better. This is how he describes his work:

“I decided to study Engineering because I had already completed an apprenticeship in handcraft and enjoyed technical solutions. I was driven by the desire for further education and my fascination for technology. My strong systemic thinking and desire for personal development also motivated me to learn more about technology and develop innovative solutions. 

“Today, as an engineer, I work to deepen my understanding of objects, situations, and functions in order to optimize building automation and create clarity in the area of facility management. I ensure stable installations and environments to carry out detector tests, identify potential savings through energy monitoring in the building, and organize and plan the replacement and maintenance of installations.

“In my opinion, the complexity of a system lies more in its characteristics, while its ‘complicatedness’ is related to the understanding of objects or situations. Given the shortage of suitable specialists, I see a future in which we will have to rely on simpler, less complex systems. That is why I strive to work on sustainable and simple solutions, in which various components interact with each other and the consequences of these interactions are easily predictable”.

Rolf Bachmann, Electrical Engineer, Hardware Design:

“A Better World with Better Products”

Rolf explains the sustainable visions behind his job: “Electrical engineers design the best possible circuits and source code that fit the specific application of their detectors, in order to enable the hardware in the detectors to guarantee best-in-class performance. In turn, this will allow scientists to obtain the best possible results”. 

For Rolf, “[b]eing an engineer is not a title, but an inner attitude. I learn about myself and the world every day, and I use this knowledge and skill to make the world a better place and improve myself. My contribution to a better world is better products that move us forward as humanity”. 

Francesco Marafatto, Field System Engineer: 

“Ensuring the Long Life of Products”

“As an engineer at DECTRIS, I ensure that the end user’s experimental downtime is minimized as much as possible, and that customers can get the most out of our detectors,” explains Francesco Marafatto, Field System Engineer and member of the DECTRIS Compliance and Sustainability team. 

In his role, Francesco travels to research facilities - synchrotron light sources and laboratories - to commission and repair our detectors, as well as to support scientists on site. “I believe that what I can do to give a more sustainable future to our planet, as a Field System Engineer at DECTRIS, is to ensure that our products are repairable as much as possible. Personally, I strongly advocate for the ‘right to repair’ in general, because this strongly reduces the need for mineral resources to produce new products”.


Marlies Reher, Field System Engineer: 

“Extend the lifetime of detectors, minimize the use of mineral resources”

Marlies, who joined DECTRIS two months ago in the same Engineering specialty as Francesco, reflects on her role and impact on society: "The UNESCO World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is a good opportunity for us engineers to remind ourselves to use our technical competence not only for the profit of the company, but also to promote sustainable development inside and outside of DECTRIS”. 

She highlights the importance of saving the resources of our planet through informed and expert engineering: “For example, it lies in the hands of DECTRIS engineers to design and build long-lasting detectors to minimize the use of mineral resources. As an engineer in the Support Team, I repair detectors to extend their lifetime. Even after a detector type is no longer produced, and it has officially reached the end of guaranteed support, we do our best to continue providing support to the users of these old detectors. Apart from saving natural resources, this support helps to promote inclusion in research, since customers from institutions with little funding can continue doing research with their detector".


Engineering at DECTRIS: Over Ten Specializations Across the Product Life Cycle

At DECTRIS, we have twelve Engineering specializations, in which almost a third of our employees work.

  • In Research & Development, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, and ICT System engineers work, respectively, on the following: electronic circuits and Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs); the mechanical assembly and housing; developing the software and IT infrastructure required for running our detector systems; maintaining the entire IT infrastructure.

  • In Operations, the production engineers and process engineers develop, maintain, and optimize all processes and machines that are necessary for reliably manufacturing our detectors. Our two integration engineers are positioned between Development and Operations; they oversee the product's integration, from sales to delivery. Our equipment engineers are responsible for providing media and equipment for production, as well as for the building of infrastructure.

  • In Marketing & Sales, our field system engineers are specialists in commissioning detectors in research facilities, synchrotron radiation facilities, or laboratories. They support customers with repairs and troubleshooting. Product engineers take care of the product families throughout the entire life cycle, initiate efficiency- and operation-saving adjustments, and implement product changes.

Corporate news // 08.02.2024

HIMEJI, February 6, 2024 – DECTRIS Japan celebrates 3 years since its establishment in January 2021, facilitating the dialogue with national X-ray research facilities, and establishing itself as the new distributor of choice for Hybrid Photon Counting detectors in Japan. The success of the DECTRIS technology in Japan today goes back to the origins of the collaboration, 17 years ago, between the Japanese X-ray analytical equipment manufacturer Rigaku and the Swiss start-up.

Corporate news // 28.07.2023

Our former Head of Support and Commissioning has moved into a new position. What stays the same is Sascha’s desire to be part of the story; to work with engineers and scientists in order to enable synchrotron science.

Corporate news // 28.07.2023

Sofia is passionate about science and new collaborations. She joined DECTRIS this April, and she is looking forward to getting to know our detector users better. IUCr 2023 in Melbourne is a great opportunity for her to do just that.

Corporate news // 06.02.2023

Shanghai Winner International Trading and DECTRIS sign a distribution agreement.

Corporate news // 09.11.2022

TESCAN TENSOR integrates DECTRIS QUADRO hybrid-pixel detectors to enable 4D STEM applications.

Corporate news // 01.08.2022

We are launching a new 4D STEM hybrid-pixel detector. Learn more about DECTRIS ARINA!

Corporate news // 11.03.2022
DECTRIS ELA electron detectors are now available on CEOS energy filters.
Corporate news // 08.03.2022
As a company with a mission to enhance human health, we believe that a contribution to help the people who are suffering is the right thing to do.

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