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Beckman Foundation Awards Funding to Advance Research Using Focused Ion Beam (FIB) Milling of Cellular Samples

Seven Grantees to Receive a Total of $10.5M for New Technology and Research Project Support

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation today announced the 2022 awardees of its FIB-Milling Sample Preparation for Cellular CryoET program. The grant will supply support of $1.5 million per site for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of instrumentation; support for personnel, junior scientists, and training programs; support for data science collaborations within research teams; and/or costs for proposed research programs. Investing in this instrumentation underscores the Foundation’s mission of supporting research breakthroughs in chemistry and the life sciences.

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The 2022 FIB-Milling awardee teams and lead Principal Investigators are:

  • James Berger, PhD - Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Yi-Wei Chang, PhD - University of Pennsylvania
  • Songi Han, PhD - University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Christopher Hill, PhD - University of Utah
  • Steven Ludtke, PhD - Baylor College of Medicine
  • Melanie Ohi, PhD - University of Michigan
  • Daniel Southworth, PhD - University of California, San Francisco

Single particle cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM), recognized with the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has revolutionized structural biology. A limitation of single particle Cryo-EM, however, is that the electron microscopes can only image through very thin samples, much thinner than individual cells, so the proteins of interest must be first separated from the cell and thus removed from its natural environment. A breakthrough method, focused ion beam (FIB) milling of cellular samples, has been developed to overcome this limitation by cutting ultra-thin section of cell interiors such that they are accessible to high-resolution cryo-electron tomography (Cryo-ET) imaging in situ. This breakthrough enables high-resolution 3-D structure determination for organelles and proteins in their natural environments.

“This milling technique allows researchers to essentially open a window into the cell interior itself and see directly how all of the components are interacting. However, a challenge with this technique is that you must be extremely precise in where you slice into the cells to expose the exact organelle or interaction that you are studying. An equally important part of these awards is in method development to couple a fluorescence or other imaging method to the milling equipment so that the researchers can target these precise locations as they are preparing the samples for imaging in the high-resolution cryo-electron microscopes.”

Anne Hultgren, PhD, Executive Director

Program awards are scheduled to start in February 2022.

  • View the full announcement on PRweb here.