In my new role as ALS Division Deputy for Biosciences I am working with bioscience researchers at the ALS to develop an integrated strategic plan. Lab Director Paul Alivisatos, Physical Biosciences and Life Sciences Division Directors, and ALS leadership identified this activity as important for the future of Lab biosciences, and for making a case for new facilities such as the Next Generation Light Source. ALS management is justifiably proud of all of the bioscience research programs and looks forward to ongoing dialogue with them.
We are fortunate at the ALS to have a large community of biology research beamlines. There are eight macromolecular crystallography beamlines: 4.2.2, 5.0.1, 5.0.2, 5.0.3, 8.2.1, 8.2.2, 8.3.1, and 12.3.1. The latter beamline is unique in providing both crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering techniques. There are other unique resources at the ALS for tomographic imaging of biological systems: the National Center for X-ray Tomography, the use of infrared spectroscopy at the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology Program, and the ABEX resource for Advanced Biological and Environmental X-ray spectroscopy. Collectively these biology resources are essential to research in the Physical Biosciences, Life Sciences, and Earth Sciences Divisions.
The ALS beamlines are used for solving real world problems. For example, Beamline 8.3.1 played a critical role in the development of a new anti-cancer drug by a Bay Area biotech company, Plexxikon. Plexxikon is a drug company formed on the idea of using atomic structure to develop scaffolds for drug development. They developed a novel, highly selective, oral drug that targets the cancer-causing BRAF mutation that occurs in about 50 percent of melanomas, 10 percent of colorectal cancers, and eight percent of all solid tumors. This drug, to be sold by Genentech under the name Zelboraf, was recently granted fast FDA approval.
Earlier this year I formed a Biosciences Council, with representation from bioscience beamlines at the ALS and researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Davis. At a recent council meeting there was discussion across a broad range of topics from how to promote ALS biosciences to the community, to which new beamline developments would enhance biological research. In response, I am convening a small group to develop new web-based material describing bioscience research resources at the ALS. This group will also create promotional materials for display at conferences. Leaders of current bioscience beamlines will also be planning new resources with the goal of obtaining funding. The council will provide a forum for discussions about the research potential of new sources such as the LCLS at Stanford, and the NGLS at Berkeley. I invite any interested bioscience researchers to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org about participating in the Biosciences Council.