Technical advances in structural biology are making it possible to visualize on the atomic scale biological processes we have never seen before.
The aim of the Structural Biology Programme (SBP) is to provide mechanistic understanding at the molecular level of how molecules and macromolecular complexes relate to cancer, which is a first step towards the development of new therapies.
Our ultimate goal is to use the new mechanistic insights and the solved structures to help guide the search for new compounds that could interfere with the function of these complexes in cancer cells. Our current research focuses on the study of protein kinases implicated in cancer as well as large macromolecular complexes involved in the cellular response to DNA damage. SBP undertakes this research thanks to the multiple technologies available in the Programme’s Units and Research Groups as well as through the constant lookout for synergies with other groups at CNIO.
A focus has been placed on setting up cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) methods at SBP, a revolutionary technology to observe individual macromolecules at high resolution that is reshaping biomedical research. Cryo-EM is used to investigate the structure and function of macromolecular complexes in different biologically active states, to determine their structure and propose their mechanism of action. In 2018 and 2019, SBP published the first cryo-EM structures produced at the Programme.
The CNIO’s Structural Biology Programme currently consists of one Senior Group (headed by Oscar Llorca), two Junior Groups (headed by Ivan Plaza and Rafael Fernández-Leiro) and four Units: Crystallography and Protein Engineering, Spectroscopy and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Electron Microscopy and Bioinformatics.