In the world of experimental science, there are many fields where numerous conditions need to be explored to proceed to the next step. Macromolecular Crystallization is a good example where such a brute-force approach is necessary: it is not uncommon to set up hundreds, if not thousands, of experiments to obtain a diffracting crystal. We're excited to share a significant milestone the Monash Macromolecular Crystallization Platform (MMCP) reached - the setup of their 10,000th crystallization plate using FORMULATRIX instruments in early August 2023. Achieved under the guidance of Dr. Geoffrey Kong since 2021 (and previously Dr. Danuta Maksel), this accomplishment represents nearly a million individual crystallization experiments. It is a testament to the dedication and expertise of the MMCP team. This journey from plate one to 10,000 has undoubtedly made significant contributions to the Structural Biology field, including the rapid structure determination of a possible drug target in the Sars-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.
A Collaborative Network Beyond Crystallization
Founded in 2009 as part of the Monash Research Infrastructure, the MMCP has been offering crystallization and protein stability testing services to the global research community, both academic and industrial. The platform collaborates closely with other Monash Research Infrastructure platforms, including proteomics and metabolomics, Cryo-Electron Microscopy, and X-ray platforms. This collaborative approach allows MMCP to offer a comprehensive range of protein characterization techniques. MMCP is strategically located less than a ten-minute walk away from the Australian Synchrotron and can refer its clients to the Macromolecular Crystallography (MX) beamlines there.
Innovative Technology Driving Progress
In 2016, MMCP acquired four ROCK IMAGER 1000 (RI1000) instruments, an NT8 Drop Setter, and a FORMULATOR. This upgrade solidified the MMCP as one of the best-equipped macromolecular crystallization facilities globally.
The FORMULATRIX instruments have since become the workhorses of macromolecular crystallization at the MMCP.
The NT8, equipped with a Plate Copy head, automates the crystallization plate setup, ensuring precision from screen solution transfer to experimental plate setup. With an enclosed environment and tight humidity control, ambient conditions have minimal impact on experiments.
The RI1000s boast a 970 plate capacity and feature both visible light imaging and UV fluorescence imaging (EX280 nm) for label-free identification of protein crystals. Two of the RI1000s even have SONICC (Second Order Nonlinear Imaging of Chiral Crystals), enabling the detection of deeply buried crystals, extremely thin crystals, microcrystals <1 μm, and crystals obscured in birefringent LCP.
FORMULATRIX: Pioneering Solutions in Macromolecular Research
Founded in 2002, FORMULATRIX has been a trailblazer in crystallization automation with solutions to cover the entire workflow, from pre-screening protein samples to tracking crystals through synchrotron trips. FORMULATRIX also produces the lowest-volume ultrafiltration instrument for lab-scale concentration and buffer exchange of macromolecular samples.
Tell Us Your Story
As we celebrate this remarkable achievement, MMCP continues setting up more plates and crystallizing more targets. We would like to hear YOUR story: how many, or even better, how few crystallization experiments were necessary for your project’s success? Click here to tell us your story.