A prestigious Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) grant for improving the access to cryo-EM methodologies in Latin America was awarded to Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM) Researchers Marin van Heel and Rodrigo Portugal, and was announced on the 15th of November 2021. The awardees of the grant “Expanding Latin American Cryo-EM Biomedical Research”, will develop new methods in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) data collection and data processing, and will establish time-resolved cryo-EM for observing biological processes at the molecular level. The $200.000 CZI grant is not only an investment in CNPEM but also represents international recognition of the institution’s pioneering role in creating the first single-particle cryo-EM facility in Latin America.
The unique CNPEM/LNNano cryo-EM facility is primarily dedicated to elucidating the structure of biomolecular complexes. Cryomicroscopy is a cutting-edge technique that is ideal for imaging biological macromolecules and understanding their structure. This group spearheaded the elucidation of the structure of the Mayaro Virus, a human pathogen, and the first structures of free septin hexamers, an important protein of the cytoskeleton. Time-resolved cryo-EM analysis may be a significant step forward for imaging biomolecules, allowing the observation of processes and interactions occurring between molecules.
Expanding the access to high-end cryo-EM imaging facilities, combined with extensive training in the underlying cryo-EM image-processing methodologies are fundamental to support the Latin American community of structural biology researchers. This is especially important in the light of outbreaks of diseases like Zika and Covid-19.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a North American institution, founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of local communities. CZI awarded $4.1 million to support 17 projects to increase access to imaging instrumentation and expertise for biomedical researchers in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and former Soviet countries. CNPEM is involved in two of the 17 selected projects, the second CZI grant “Building Bioimaging Capacity in South America”, being of the Center for Structural Biology of Mercosur (CeBEM), in which Rodrigo Portugal is also involved.
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