UK Structural Biology Forum

The structural biology community in the UK, both commercial and academic, has the potential to act as a reference body for defending existing infrastructure and identifying the future needs of the community. This includes appropriate funding streams, strategic and scientific objectives, and commercial opportunities.  Instruct was instrumental in helping to form a single UK forum which is representative of the entire community.

Aims

On behalf of the UK structural biology community, both commercial and academic:

·         To establish an active reference body for defending existing infrastructure and identifying future needs

·         To identify and respond to appropriate funding streams, strategic and scientific objectives, and commercial opportunities as they arise – often at short notice.

·         To facilitate face-to-face or web based consultations between the whole community or subgroupings reflecting more focused areas such as cryo-EM or imaging. This may include occasional general assemblies such as those hosted by Instruct in 2009 and 2010.

The importance of this body is demonstrated by the role of Instruct in providing the forum which established the concept for a UK national cryo-EM facility at Diamond.

Purpose

The UK structural biology (SB) community is an active and internationally leading informal grouping that has consistently delivered the highest impact research among UK biological and life sciences. The community is dependent on access to large capital-intensive infrastructure (e.g. Diamond) and often leads on world-leading technology developments around such infrastructure. The community underpins major UK-based industry in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agri-sciences and industrial biotechnology. In the current financial climate, the community needs to reassert itself in terms of defending existing infrastructure support and establishing new funding streams to ensure that it remains internationally competitive and world leading. In July 2010 the community met in London under the auspices of the UK Instruct user group and a series of proposals were developed and agreed upon. Instruct is now operational and has helped to re-engage the UK structural biology community.

The SB community is facing significant challenges in maintaining its international leading edge as government funding streams (RCUK and STFC) become limiting. This was highlighted by a STFC programmatic review on its investments covering a time horizon of 5-30 years and includes the case for UK involvement in European X-FEL developments. The review impacted not only on MX but also on infrastructures for cryo-EM and NMR in terms of regional and national facilities. It is vital that the UK SB community is able to react in a coordinated way to such opportunities and present a strategic vision of our needs – that is to be proactive rather than responding at very short notice to such initiatives. To give context to the potential effectiveness of such coordinated actions, the UK has invested £73M in the Elixir program for bioinformatics: the latter community has established a well-coordinated and effective pressure group. The Structural Biology Community, through the UK Structural Biology Forum, must do the same.

The UKSBF has provided information to stakeholders on the UK priorities for large scale capital investments in science and research with the focus on the future needs of the structural community. Information gathered community-wide using an on-line survey underpinned this document (96 responders) which fed into the report by the Russell Group, published in July 2014

Executive Committee members:

Tom Blundell (Chair, University of Cambridge and Astex Pharmaceuticals), Jim Naismith (Deputy Chair, University of St. Andrews)

Ben Bax (GSK), Justin Benesch (UOXF), Rob Cooke (Heptares), Jane Endicott (University of Newcastle), Paul Freemont (Imperial College), Gerard Kelywegt (EMBL-EBI), Steve Matthews (Imperial College), Jennifer Potts (University of York), Alan Roseman (University of Manchester), Helen Saibil (Birkbeck College), David Scott (University of Nottingham and RAL), Dave Stuart ( UOXF and DLS), Geerton Vuister (University of Leicester), Martin Walsh (DLS), Keith Wilson (University of York), Martyn Winn (STFC RAL). 

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