The National Resource for Automated Molecular Microscopy (NRAMM) was established in December 2002 to develop, test and apply technology for automating structure determination of macromolecules by cryoelectron microscopy. During our initial startup period, we established some of the basic infrastructure and successfully demonstrated the power of automation applied to molecular microscopy. With our funding renewed in 2006 we focused on extending our technologies to provide a complete and integrated pipeline for the reconstruction of macromolecular machines. NRAMM's unique role has been to demonstrate both the possibility and the enormous potential of automation for molecular microscopy and show that it can be used in the service of compelling and challenging biological problems. We have also, in accordance with our original mission, used the infrastructure to open up the previously esoteric practices of EM structural biology to a much wider group of researchers including those whose main focus is nanotechnology and translational research. Our goals over the next 5 years are to further expand the possibilities of automation and continue to address the remaining limitations of molecular microscopy. To serve this mission we will focus on three Technological Research and Development Projects: (1) developing a novel approach to specimen preparation;(2) optimizing resolution and throughput;and (3) expanding our data processing pipeline to enable novel structural investigations of the most challenging macromolecules. These projects will be driven by, and interact very intensively with, 9 Driving Biological Projects, which represent a broad scope of biomedical research areas. We will also continue to serve the national community by providing support and access to the advanced technologies at NRAMM for a wide range of collaborative and service projects. Dissemination and Training activities will include the large international biennial NRAMM workshop, numerous smaller training and multi-disciplinary workshops, distribution and support of the major software infrastructure developed at NRAMM, and promoting the broader use of our technologies by making them widely known to the scientific community.
Electron microscopy (EM) is now established as an essential tool for studying macromolecular machines that are central to cellular function, and thus has a basic and fundamental relevance for both the healthy and diseased states. This project will develop novel technologies that will increase both the pace and reach of EM structural studies, and will support fundamental research efforts in drug and vaccine development.
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