The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed over 110 lives and more than 170 cases have been reported. While there is no known cure for the virus, basic research is providing insight into the viral mechanism. Recently, a team led by Erica Ollman Saphire (Scripps) elucidated one of the structures of an Ebola virus protein VP40 using data collected in the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology at the Advanced Light Source. Further studies illustrate how VP40 assumes various structural conformations to enable different functions. All structures were solved using PHENIX, automated crystallography software developed under the direction of Paul Adams in the Physical Biosciences Division. More>
Posts Tagged ‘Physical Biosciences Division’
Adam Arkin — director of the Physical Biosciences Division and a leading authority on the evolutionary design principles of cellular networks and populations and their application to systems and synthetic biology — has received a 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award. The award, the Department of Energy’s highest scientific honor, recognizes Arkin “for his work advancing biological and environmental sciences.” Arkin’s research has focused on developing the physical theory, computational tools and experimental approaches for understanding the cellular processes that are critical to life. The goal is to provide a framework that will facilitate the design and engineering of new functions and behaviors in cells through synthetic and systems biology. More>
Jay Keasling, ALD for Biosciences, and Mary Maxon, who heads strategic planning and development for Biosciences, are spearheading a proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called BOB – for Berkeley Open Biofoundry. If successful, this proposal would create a new type of user facility in which industrial, academic, and government stakeholders will have access to engineered biological systems, including microbes, plants and tissues, at all stages of the engineering process, including design, building, testing and learning. BOB recently passed a crucial first test when DARPA awarded the Lab $1.5 million to proceed with a “Task Area 1” (TA1) design and study phase. The Lab submitted the BOB proposal in partnership with four private corporations, Amyris, Agilent, Lockheed Martin and 20n Labs. More>
Mary Maxon —the Lab’s head of Biosciences Strategic Planning and Development — will give a presentation on the Biosciences Strategic Plan and how it can be applied in other scientific areas. The event takes place Monday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m. in the Building 50 Auditorium. She will also provide research on how other research institutions are managing federal budget challenges. The Lab’s Biosciences Area covers energy, environment, health, and biomanufacturing research in the Physical Biosciences, Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Genomics Divisions. The talk will be live streamed.
Physical Bioscience Division researchers Yan Kern (left) and Gary Moore (right) were among the invited speakers to the 2014 Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting held in the Chemical and Biological Centre at Umeå University, Sweden. The meeting brought together an international group of researchers at the forefronts of natural and artificial photosynthesis to strengthen and display efforts towards research in the renewable energy field. Kern’s presentation on taking snapshots of photosynthetic water oxidation was in the Natural Photosynthesis session. Moore’s lecture on molecular and nanoscale approaches to solar energy transduction, was in the Artificial Photosynthesis session.
Nicholas Sauter and Paul Adams of the Physical Biosciences Division led the development of a software package called the Computational Crystallography Toolbox for X-ray Free-electron Lasers or cctbx.xfel, that can be used to obtain high-quality images of proteins from the data produced at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). This software not only can be used to study the structures and functions of elusive proteins, it can also be used to mine data from past experiments for new information. Also contributing to this work from Berkeley Lab were Johan Hattne, Nathaniel Echols, Rosalie Tran, Jan Kern, Richard Gildea, Aaron Brewster, Benedikt Lassalle-Kaiser, Alyssa Lampe, Guangye Han, Sheraz Gul, Petrus Zwart, Ralf Grosse-Kunstleve, Junko Yano and Vittal Yachandra. More>
Dominique Loqué — a member of the Physical Biosciences Division who directs the cell wall engineering program for the Joint BioEnergy Institute Feedstocks Division — has been selected as this year’s winner of the Robert Rabson Award by the American Society of Plant Biology. Loqué was recognized for his contributions to bioenergy research through the genetic engineering of healthy plants whose lignocellulosic biomass can more easily be broken down into simple sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Working with the model plant, Arabidopsis, and using the tools of synthetic biology, Loqué is developing ways to reduce the production of lignin while increasing the yield of fuel sugars in plant cell walls. For more about Loqué’s research, go here.
The groundbreaking research of Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with the Physical Biosciences, was featured in a New York Times story this week on a powerful new tool for editing DNA. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were credited with leading the discovery in 2012 that an RNA-based component of the bacterial immune system called CRISPR can be programmed to cleave DNA at any chosen nucleotide sequence. The hope is that CRISPR can one day be used as a surgical tool to correct genetic problems that cause disease. The New York Times story can be read here. For more on Doudna’s latest research with CRISPR go here.
A team of researchers led by Berkeley Lab scientists used scanning electron microscopy to explore, for the first time, how individual Staphylococcus Aureus cells glom onto metallic nanostructures of various shapes and sizes. They found that bacterial adhesion and survival rates vary depending on the nanostructure’s shape. Their work could lead to a more nuanced understanding of what makes a surface less inviting to bacteria. The research was led by Mohammad Mofrad and Zeinab Jahed of the Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley. More>
Heinz Frei, a chemist with the Physical Biosciences Division, led a study in which the first direct, temporally resolved observations of intermediate steps in water oxidation, using cobalt oxide as the catalyst, revealed kinetic bottlenecks whose elimination would help boost the efficiency of artificial photosynthesis systems. Cobalt oxide is an Earth-abundant catalyst considered to be an excellent candidate for efficiently and economically carrying out the water oxidation reaction in artificial photosynthesis. This reaction provides the electrons needed to produce liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and water. Working with Frei on this study were Miao Zhang and Moreno de Respinis. More>