Released 10/5/98

For information, contact Kara Villamil, 516-344-5658 or Mona S. Rowe, 516-344-5056





UPTON, NY - The National Institutes of Health has granted $1.6 million to help scientists improve X-ray biology facilities at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, doubling the existing budget for the already world-renowned effort.

The grant is the first installment of a five-year, $8.3 million investment in the project, directed by Robert Sweet of BNL's Biology Department and based at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) facility on the Laboratory campus. Working with Sweet on the project are co-investigators Malcolm Capel and Lonny Berman.

The improvements will help scientists from all over the world discover new biological information about the human body, disease agents and crop plants. Research results may help pharmaceutical and agrichemical companies develop new medicines or agricultural products.

The grant will allow Brookhaven scientists to develop new structural biology techniques, equipment, and software to be used at the NSLS. The NSLS produces intense beams of X-rays that scientists use to make "atomic maps" of molecules.

Recent discoveries there include the first images of the AIDS virus attaching itself to a human cell, and of a part of the Lyme disease bacterium interacting with a part of the human immune system. Both lay the groundwork for possible future treatments.

Sweet notes, "This grant will help us to improve the hardware, software and methods that scientists need to do this work, and expand the staff that helps. We will be able to improve productivity, taking on more projects and ending up with better data."

More than 600 biologists from universities, pharmaceutical companies, Brookhaven and other national laboratories used seven of the NSLS's experimental stations in the past year to study biological molecules using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

The work requires sophisticated detectors to capture the X-rays that are scattered by atoms in the crystallized molecules, and advanced computer software to translate that information into a finished image of the molecule. Both will be improved using the NIH grant.

Other NSLS stations are used for research in physics, chemistry, materials science, environmental science and medicine. In all, 2,300 scientists use the NSLS each year.

The grant is being provided by the NIH National Center for Research Resources.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

More information on this program can be found on the World Wide Web at