Thirty people from Structural biology groups and research/charity funding councils attended a one day meeting on 14th November 2012 comprised of 4 presentations and a working meeting to discuss if there was a common position on the possible involvement of UK structural biology with the European X-ray source XFEL.
A presentation from Henry Chapman, gave a comprehensive update on the work that is taking place at LCLS and the potential of XFEL. The overview described that over 60k images are needed to collect a complete dataset for 3d structure determination taking around 8 hours at LCLS. The Coulomb explosion and ionisation effects of the beam have led to the understanding that a pulse time of around 20fs is needed to obtain high resolution data. At XFEL it is envisaged that entire data sets of 10,000 diffraction images at 10% “hit” efficiency from 100,000 shots at a repeat rate of 27KHz could be collected in 3s but realistically data technology would mean that this would be 30 seconds, i.e. a 1000 fold improvement on LCLS. Talks from invited speakers showed the results from nanocrystals and protein solutions.
XFEL are now supporting the notion of user consortia such as that for single particle imaging or a nano crystallography station. There is an opportunity for the UK structural biology group to invest in a consortia which would fund the capital investment and operational cost for an end station. The UK would be part of 7 groups interested in forming the consortia, with an overall investment cost of £10-12M and a possible 33% share, which would give access for about 35 days per annum. The attendees were unanimous in support for the proposal for a group of researchers to lead a bid to BBSRC as the lead research council. There was a discussion about the other groups that has called for UK FEL projects. Two points arose 1) the support from structural biophysics hopefully would be well received from other groups, 2) the order of magnitude of investment compared to that that required for “laser people” would mean this would not be an STFC investment.