Support of Structural Biology and PSI Resources

The 15-year Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) ended on June 30, 2015. In preparation for the termination of the program, an external committee of structural biologists and biomedical researchers identified high-priority areas for NIGMS’ future support of structural biology and the preservation of certain PSI resources. Here are some of their key recommendations and what we’re planning to do in response.

Continue to support synchrotron beamlines for macromolecular crystallography.

Recognizing the importance of synchrotron beamlines in modern structural biology, we intend to continue to support these community resources. Part of this effort includes using a new funding approach to ensure that NIH-supported investigators have reliable access to mature synchrotron-based resources.

Maintain the technologies that make structural investigations possible at the most advanced level; meet the need for modern cryo-electron microscopy resources.

We’ll continue to use existing grant mechanisms to support structural biology research, including
X-ray crystallography, NMR, cryo-EM and integrative or hybrid methods. To facilitate the use of
cryo-EM for structure determination we have started a program to provide support for consortia of
cryo-EM labs to upgrade their facilities
. NIGMS is also developing plans for establishing regional
cryo-EM centers that could provide access to state-of-the-art cryo-EM resources for the broader structural biology community.

Enable collaborative, multi-investigator efforts in membrane protein and large macromolecular assembly structure determination.

Based on community input and internal analyses, research on membrane proteins and complexes can be supported efficiently using investigator-initiated grants such as R01s, P01s and, for major technology development initiatives, P41s.

Examine the need for preserving PSI resources.

  • Protein expression centers: Based on input from the research community, we determined that there is little demand for the establishment of protein expression centers. However, there is a need for further development of expression methods; this research could be supported by investigator-initiated R01s, P01s or SBIR/STTR grants. The Institute encourages applications in this area.
  • Materials Repository: NIGMS will continue to support this resource but will encourage it to develop a sustainability plan and find new funding mechanisms in the future.
  • Structural Biology Knowledgebase: We will provide a short period of bridge funding to enable this resource to preserve components deemed potentially most useful to the general biomedical research community.

NIGMS will not provide additional targeted funding for other components of the PSI. Investigators on these projects can seek support for them through regular investigator-initiated mechanisms.

We thank those who responded to our requests for information and the other outreach efforts that informed our plans, and we continue to welcome community feedback. You can email your comments or questions to Cathy or post them here.

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