National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility

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The mission of the National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility (NCEF) at NCI is to provide cancer researchers access to the latest cryo-EM technology for high resolution imaging. The National Cryo-EM is a service facility under the umbrella of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.

Need for Cryo-EM

Over the last several years, the field of cryo-EM has undergone a revolution. Where once structural analysis by cryo-EM meant that low resolution maps were fit with high-resolution structures derived from other structural biology modalities such as X-ray crystallography or nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, now, the data generated by cryo-EM can be of high enough resolution to directly generate atomic models for proteins and other biological macromolecules.

This revolution has been driven by several factors, including advances in microscope and camera technology, as well as improved computational methods for analyzing single particle cryo-EM data. Access to the latest microscope and detector technologies, which can be prohibitively expensive for many institutions is critical for acquiring the best quality data, and generating the highest resolution structures by this method. The NCI has created the National Cryo-EM Facility to meet the needs of cancer researchers in academic labs who do not have adequate access to these instruments.


The National Cryo-EM Facility currently houses one Titan Krios microscope, and additional microscopes will be added as needed. To meet the diverse imaging needs of the cryo-EM community, the microscope is fitted with both a Falcon II direct detector and a K2 Summit direct detector at the end of a Gatan imaging filter. Specialists in cryo-EM data collection and microscope operations provide users with data collected from plunge-frozen grids, which will be supplied by the users.


The initial aim of this facility is to provide cryo-EM images collected on state-of-the-art instruments to extramural academic users who can show that they have specimens of the required quality ready for imaging at high resolution. NCEF is intended to advance the mission of the NCI, and requires that all prospective users provide a statement that shows their project is relevant to cancer research along with a Sample Information Form (SIF) for consideration to

To be considered, projects should fulfill the following requirements:

  • The project must be related to cancer research
  • Only biosafety level 1 (BSL 1) samples can be accepted. No potentially infectious or toxic material can be accepted
  • Representative cryo-EM images collected on a screening electron microscope must be provided with the application
  • For projects that are accepted, Frozen cryo-EM grids must be shipped to NCEF for imaging and will be properly disposed of after transfer of all the data collected to the user

We do not require you to identify your samples. Your data will not be shared with anyone, and will not be analyzed (other than for required image quality for control during data acquisition).

Images and collected data will be kept for up to 1 month after transfer to you, then deleted.

In any publications and posters that use data provided by NCEF, we require that you include acknowledgment of “This research was, in part, supported by the National Cancer Institute’s National Cryo-EM Facility at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research”.


Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, the founding Director of the National Cryo-EM Facility, continues to be affiliated as the Program Advisor. Frederick National Laboratory staff are responsible for the operational activities of NCEF. Senior Microscopist, Ulrich Baxa serves as the technical lead of the facility. He is supported by Microscopist, Thomas Edwards, and Scientific Project Manager, Helen Wang. An ad hoc advisory committee composed of members of the cryo-EM and structural biology communities provides advice to the NCI on operational aspects of the facility.  The advisory committee members can be found here.


  • Updated: September 14, 2017