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Crystal Identification and Delivery Technology for Serial Synchrotron Crystallography

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0019546
Agency Tracking Number: 242439
Amount: $225,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 26a
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001940
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-02-19
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2019-11-18
Small Business Information
95 Brown Road STE 183
Ithaca, NY 14850-1277
United States
DUNS: 170774231
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Benjamin Apker
 (607) 266-8877
Business Contact
 Robert Thorne
Phone: (607) 266-8877
Research Institution
 Cornell University
373 Pine Tree Road
Ithaca, NY 14850-2820
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Atomic structures of biomolecules (e.g., proteins) and biomolecular complexes facilitate detailed understanding of biomolecular function. They are key drivers of the ongoing revolution in molecular biology and of many areas of biotechnology, including development of pharmaceuticals and of enzymes and light harvesters for bioenergy. Most biomolecular structures are determined by X-ray crystallography using crystallized biomolecules. Advances in synchrotron X-ray sources, especially at DOE laboratories, have reduced data collection times per crystal from tens of minutes to less than one second, and enabled useful data to be obtained from micrometer size crystals. Advances in structure determination methods using X-ray free-electron laser sources (especially the DOE’s LCLS) have driven worldwide efforts to develop serial synchrotron X-ray crystallography (SSX). In SSX, dozens to tens of thousands of crystals are sequentially irradiated, and data from these crystals merged to determine a biomolecule’s structure. Many sample delivery systems have been developed for SSX, but no one system is ideal for all SSX applications, and the diversity of approaches has hindered adoption of SSX methods. Identifying microcrystals on SSX sample holders remains challenging, but is essential to maximize the efficiency of X-ray data collection and processing. This STTR project aims to develop and deliver a flexible, integrated, cost-effective platform for sample delivery and imaging in serial synchrotron X-ray crystallography. The sample delivery system incorporates elements from published designs and our innovations to accommodate a variety of real-world sample delivery needs, and utilizes to the maximum extent possible the large existing infrastructure for sample handling at DOE laboratories. The imaging system draws on advances at Cornell University in the design of high peak power, femtosecond pulse laser sources that could allow large improvements in microcrystal imaging performance and speed while significantly lowering imaging system costs. Phase I of this project will involve rapid prototyping and testing of sample handling system concepts and components, including a sample holder platform with inserts tailored to different applications, a sample loading station, and tools needed for storage and shipping to synchrotron sources. Phase I will also involve design, construction, and testing of a novel high peak power fiber laser, its incorporation into an imaging system, and evaluation of imaging performance and sample damage thresholds. The technologies to be developed and commercialized will speed adoption of SSX methods, which will have a significant impact on structural studies of membrane proteins, large biomolecular machines, and other systems for which obtaining large crystals is challenging. SSX will also dramatically increase structure determination throughput, enabling studies of large numbers of variants of a given biomolecule as required, e.g., in functional optimization of bioenzymes, and of interactions of large numbers of ligands with a given biomolecule as required, e.g., in pharmaceutical development. The proposed work will thus support advances in medical treatments, pharmaceuticals, bioenergy, and biotechnology that will be key drivers of US economic growth in the coming decades. This project and the manufacture and sale of the products it generates will provide good paying jobs and support economic development in the Southern Tier of New York State, which includes many of the state’s most economically depressed counties and cities.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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