Figure 1: CrystalDirect™ harvester associated to the FLexED3 cryo-storage unit.
Figure 2: FlexHCD sample changer shown at the ESRF ID30B beamline.
The Cipriani team develops instruments and methods for structural biology research and works with industry to make them available to scientists worldwide.
Previous and current research
The core activity of our team is to develop instruments and methods for X-ray scattering experiments. The CrystalDirect™ harvester jointly developed with the Márquez team is now in routine use at the High Throughput Crystallisation lab: associated to a FlexED3 cryo-storage unit (Figure 1): crystals grown in CrystalDirect™ plates can be marked remotely using a web service and automatically mounted onto Spine pins. The machine is particularly suitable for harvesting micro-crystals, fragile crystals, as well as batches of micro-crystals. With a capacity of three pucks, the system performs up to 30 harvestings in less than 45 minutes.
A second harvester manufactured by our industrial partner Arinax is installed at the EMBL Hamburg outstation. The intrinsic low background of the CrystalDirect™ plates makes them ideal for in situ serial data collection, such as like that offered at the ESRF ID30B and the EMBL@PETRA-III P14 micro-focus beamlines. The miniSpine sample holder is now ready for evaluation at pilot testing beamlines.
The FlexHCD sample changer (Figure 2) developed for the ESRF ID30B beamline is highly appreciated by user. A second unit was recently installed at ID23-1 and three additional ESRF MX beamlines will be equipped in 2017. A new version of the MD3 diffractometer was developed together with Arinax for the newly refurbished ESRF ID23-2 micro-focus beamline. Equipped with a fast Z scanning axis, the MD3up will be ideal for cryo and in-situ serial data collection. All these developments include contributions from the Márquez and McCarthy teams and the ESRF Structural Biology group. Supported by EMBLEM, most of our instruments are available to the scientific community worldwide.
Future projects and goals
CrystalDirect™ fills an important gap in the MX automation pipeline, but temporary crystal storage is still necessary before processing crystals at beamlines. We now plan to evaluate the concept of a harvesting/data collection pipeline by installing a harvester at the ID30B beamline. Harvested crystals will be directly transferred by the Flex robotics to the MD2S goniometer for data collection, speeding up the whole MX process while removing the puck handling efforts and costs. We also plan to develop a harvester that can work at 4°C and to evaluate the potential of CrystalDirect™ in SFX in collaboration with the SwissFEL. Finally, the growing interest on Cryo-EM makes grid preparation and screening a real bottleneck. A new challenge we have started to consider with the Grenoble IBS platform and the Heidelberg Cryo-EM core facility.