News & Events





X-ray eyes peer deeper into deadly pathogen

March 5, 2020

Tularemia is a rare but often lethal disease. It is caused by one of the most aggressive pathogens on earth, the bacterium Francisella tularensis. The microbe, transported by a variety of animals and insects, is able to enter and attack the body through a range of pathways, resulting in different constellations of symptoms and degrees of severity. Tularemia remains poorly understood and no safe and effective vaccine exists for the disease. The extreme lethality of F. tularensis and its...

Research team finds possible new approach for sleeping sickness drugs

March 2, 2020

Using ultra-bright X-ray flashes, a team of researchers has tracked down a potential target for new drugs against sleeping sickness. The scientists have decoded the detailed spatial structure of a vital enzyme of the pathogen, the parasite Trypanosoma brucei. The result provides a possible blueprint for a drug that specifically blocks this enzyme and thus kills the parasite, as the team led by Christian Betzel from the University of Hamburg, Lars Redecke from the University of Lübeck and DESY...

The sounds of science: A quiet home for a powerful laser

December 3, 2019

Descending into the basement of Biodesign Institute Building C, a stillness settles around you. The sounds of skateboards clacking across sidewalks, students hurrying to class, even the chime of the nearby light rail and rush of traffic fade the deeper you go into the copper-plated, five-story building.  “You can feel it. You can just feel how quiet your feet are,” says Mark Holl. “Theoretically, this is one of the quietest, most vibration-free rooms in the entire...

World’s top researchers convene at ASU Biodesign to improve understanding of molecules in action, helping to advance areas including medicine and clean energy

November 26, 2019

Early in November, under azure Arizona skies, researchers from around the world gathered at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for an unusual scientific conference. “Functional dynamics—visualizing molecules in action” was sponsored by the premier scientific journal Nature, in collaboration with the Biodesign Institute at ASU. The conference highlighted recent advances that have allowed scientists to probe critical aspects of nature occurring at mind-bogglingly tiny dimensions...

One step closer: Membrane protein structure expressed in Lyme disease could offer therapeutic target

November 26, 2019

Stories of those afflicted with Lyme disease abound and cases appear to be on the rise. Yet few are aware of the symptoms, severity or cause of this disease, which is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Lyme disease, which is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete bacteria, is transmitted from ticks to humans. It represents the most common vector-borne illness in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the United States alone, there are 300,000 cases annually. As the number of cases...

Imaging at the speed of life

November 18, 2019

The European XFEL marks a new age of protein movie-making that enables enzymes involved in disease to be observed in real time To study the swiftness of biology – the protein chemistry behind every life function – scientists need to see molecules changing and interacting in unimaginably rapid time increments – trillionths of a second or shorter. Imaging equipment with that kind of speed was finally tested last year at the European X-ray Free-Electron Laser, or EuXFEL. Now, ASU...

Photosynthesis seen in a new light by rapid X-ray pulses

November 8, 2019

The ability to transform sunlight into energy is one of Nature’s more remarkable feats. Scientists understand the basic process of photosynthesis, but many crucial details remain elusive, occurring at dimensions and fleeting time scales long deemed too minuscule to probe. Now, that is changing. In a new study, led by Petra Fromme and Nadia Zatsepin at the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery, the School of Molecular Sciences and the Department of Physics at ASU, researchers...

First-of-its-kind instrument enables one-of-a-kind student experience

October 1, 2019

What’s better than spending a hot Arizona summer working in a cool basement? Spending a hot Arizona summer in a cool basement, building a scientific instrument expected to be the first of its kind in the world. Beneath the newly opened Biodesign Institute building C, five Arizona State University students put their education to work this summer, aiding in the first phase of the compact X-ray free electron laser (CXFEL), a miniaturized high-fidelity X-ray source. While most free electron...

Bright lights, big science: Revolutionary laser instrument receives $4.7 million boost from the National Science Foundation

September 17, 2019

Deep within the subterranean confines of Building C—the latest addition to the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University—a pathbreaking machine is quietly taking shape. Designed to unlock some of nature’s tiniest and most fleeting mysteries, the Compact X-ray Free Electron Laser (CXFEL) is the only instrument of its kind in the world. The device is the brainchild of physicist William Graves, a passionate authority on massive, intricate machines for leading-edge science. For the...

Nature Research and the Biodesign Institute to co-host fall conference on imaging molecular reactions

August 13, 2019

Some of the world’s most accomplished scientific minds will converge on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on November 6, 7 and 8 to explore new methods that make it possible to observe molecules in action. Illustrating the adage, "seeing is believing," the conference, “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action,” will showcase how cutting-edge methods are pushing the boundaries of knowledge. At the conference, scientists will discuss how emerging methods – that...