SIF 168 Cryo-EM

Project Manager: Lukas Tamm

Cryo-EM: Start-up recruitment package for key hire in the area of structural biology.

Approved: Summer 2019

Project Dates: 10/01/2020 – 9/30/2022

Funding Awarded: $1,650,000

Executive Summary

Cryo Electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM) is the most burgeoning new technique in the arsenal of methods to elucidate atomic structures of biomolecules (proteins, DNA, RNA, carbohydrates), viruses, and ultrastructure of cells at unprecedented resolution. Although EM of plastic embedded or negatively stained biological materials that produce images at lower resolution is older, two breakthroughs in the last decade or so have elevated biological EM to new levels. First, methods were developed to ultra-rapidly freeze and preserve biological samples in vitreous, i.e. glassy rather than crystalline ice, and second, a new generation of direct electron detectors were invented that obviated the need to convert electrons into photons for detection on photographic film or conventional CCD cameras. These two inventions, which were honored by the Noble prize in Chemistry in 2017, coupled with new methods of data analysis led to the so-called “resolution revolution” in structural biology. Since then the number of cryo EM structures solved has grown exponentially, and almost every issue of the leading journals Nature and Science reports on a new impactful cryo-EM structure.

UVA has positioned itself early and well in this field, through its current faculty. To maintain the momentum and to continue to be a leading institution and regional center in this field, this award enables the hire of one or two outstanding new faculty members with expertise in cryo-EM.

Current Status: Active


This award will be reviewed by the PAC at their December 2020 meeting.