News & Events





Improvements in microscopy home in on biology’s elusive details

October 13, 2021

In the late 1600s, the Dutch tradesman Anthoni van Leeuwenhoek began investigating the world of the very small using the first microscope, discovering a riotous world of protists, bacteria, and other previously unseen organisms. Subsequent generations of scientists have developed ever-more-sophisticated means of probing the microscopic world, bringing many mysteries of the biological realm into stunning relief. Now, researchers at the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery (CASD)...

New study targets molecular culprit of liver disease

July 15, 2021

Some 80-100 million people in the US have a serious medical condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The affliction is caused by abnormal retention of fat within cells or organs. People of all ages are vulnerable to this disease, though individuals suffering from obesity or type 2 diabetes are at heightened risk. In a new study, researchers at the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery (CASD) and their colleagues use NMR technology to probe a protein known as...

Petra Fromme’s pioneering efforts in X-ray crystallography honored with the prestigious Anfinsen Award

April 12, 2021

Arizona State University researcher Petra Fromme has received the 2021 Christian B. Anfinsen Award. The honor is bestowed by The Protein Society, the premier international association dedicated to supporting protein research. In presenting Fromme with this prestigious prize, the Protein Society recognizes her groundbreaking efforts to advance the field of protein research, using ultra-high-speed X-ray crystallography to probe matter at the tiniest scales and shortest time durations. These...

First detailed look at crucial enzyme advances cancer research

March 29, 2021

In order to develop more effective drugs against a range of cancers, researchers have been investigating the molecular structure of many diseased-linked enzymes in the body. An intriguing case in point is Taspase 1, a type of enzyme known as a protease. The primary duty of proteases is to break down proteins into smaller peptide snippets or single amino acids. Taspase 1 appears to play a vital role in a range of physiological processes, including cell metabolism, proliferation, migration and...

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...