Automated sample handling
Work package 7
Integrated beamline environments for biological sample characterisation and optimisation
Partners: EMBL-HH (coordinator), EMBL-GR, Diamond, ESRF, MAX-Lab, Malvern
This JRA aims to improve the service versatility at biological synchrotron radiation beamlines by providing the users with the means for comprehensive sample characterisation and quality control at the same site and time where the experiment is carried out. We plan to respond to the major demand in challenging structural biology to combine established approaches in so-called “hybrid” applications by synergistically employing multiple techniques, offered either at the same or multiple facility sites for a selected project. We shall primarily combine MX and SAXS methods, complementing each other in terms of resolution and sample conditions (crystalline material for MX applications, sample in solution for SAXS applications) which are frequently used together on challenging projects. Moreover, WP7 envisages to attract the scientists from other disciplines to synchrotron-based studies and to significantly widen the user community by providing a standardised quality control using minimum amounts of material coupled with sample optimisation for structural studies.
In MX, the implementation of sample changing robotics and a European standard sample holder (“SPINE” standard) have dramatically improved the throughput of modern beamlines. The present standard, however, has limitations, most notably in handling large numbers of samples and in the automation of the crystal centring. To further increase the throughput and effectiveness of the sample screening, a new EU standard sample support for MX will be developed compatible with future automated harvesting systems.
Overall, the WP aims at establishing an integrated and standardised high throughput infrastructure providing European users with all the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach. The work will increase the effectiveness of TNA to both the SAXS and MX beamlines (WP2 and WP3), and will open these techniques to new user communities.
The specific tasks of WP7 are:
- To couple directly biophysical characterization with synchrotron based methods (SAXS and MX) using minimal sample amounts.
- To optimise the design, integration and portability of the BioSAXS robotic sample changer
- To create a new EU standard sample support for MX to improve the efficiency of MX screening and facilitate the development of automated crystal harvesting systems.
- To create a unified software package for sample tracking in high throughput studies based on the ISPyB crystallographic information system
- To develop a fully automated system for high throughput SAXS experiment and data interpretation using robotics and novel analysis methods