National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility

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The mission of the National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility 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. NCI has created the National Cryo-EM Facility to begin meeting the needs of cancer researchers who do not have adequate access to these instruments at their own institutions.

Instrumentation

The National Cryo-EM Facility will be opening with one Titan Krios microscope, and additional microscopes will be added in the future as needed. To meet the diverse imaging needs of the cryo-EM community, this microscope has been 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 operation will provide users with data collected from plunge-frozen grids that are supplied by the users.

Timeline

Installation of the Titan Krios microscope has been completed. We expect that the microscope will be available for use by the extramural community on or before May 15, 2017. Updates on progress will be posted on this site, please check back periodically.

Access

The initial aim of this facility is to provide cryo-EM images collected on state-of-the-art instruments to scientists who can show that they have specimens of the required quality ready for imaging at high resolution. NCEF is intended for use to advance NCI mission, and requires that all prospective users provide a statement that their project is relevant to cancer research. Users that would like to use the facility should send a Sample Information Form (SIF) for consideration to nci-ncef@nih.gov.

Please note that your project should fulfill the following requirements:

  • The project must be related to cancer research, defined broadly
  • 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
  • Frozen cryo-EM grids must be shipped to NCEF for imaging and will be properly disposed of after data transfer

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

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 the facility, we require that you include acknowledgment of “data collected at the National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research”.

Leadership

Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, the founding Director of the National Cryo-EM Facility will transition to serving as the Program Advisor once the facility is open to users, and Leidos Biomedical will have direct responsibility for all operational activities of NCEF. Senior Microscopist, Ulrich Baxa will serve as the technical lead of the facility. He will be supported by Junior Microscopist, Thomas Edwards and Scientific Project Manager, Helen Wang. A committee of members drawn from the extramural cryo-EM and structural biology communities will also advise the NCI on the operation of the facility.

Contact: nci-ncef@nih.gov

  • Updated: March 16, 2017