IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.

European Flag

   EuropaThe European CommissionResearchPress releases

Brussels, 29 September 2000

Europe to inaugurate unique instrument
to work out how proteins function

Keywords: proteins, bioinformatic, NMR

Installation of the DSX750 WB at the Leiden University (including pictures)

On 6 October, the world’s first ultra high field wide bore spectrometer for biological research will be inaugurated in Leiden. This instrument is the outcome of a demonstration project funded by the EC’s Biotechnology programme, which through its improved sensitivity and resolution, allows researchers to tackle one of the most difficult questions of the post-genomic era: how do membrane proteins work?

Most living organisms, including ourselves, are made up of billions of cells separated by membranes containing proteins, the molecular machinery of cells. According to the first bioinformatics estimates from human genome analyses, 30% of all proteins are membrane proteins. Virtually every life process proceeds sooner or later via membrane proteins. Yet, very little is known about how they look and how they work due to a lack of instruments and methods. With thousands of membrane receptor targets awaiting analysis in pharmaceutical companies world wide, the importance of progress in this area is clear. Only with access to detailed information about how hormones or drugs bind to their (protein) membrane receptor target in the membrane, can rational drug design become reality.

The new approach is based on superconducting magnets which have many applications in scientific research, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a technique used to examine tissues in the human body, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to visualise processes at molecular or atomic scales. An extremely powerful, stable magnet with a large useable space (wide bore) has been constructed and optimised for biological research on membrane proteins. This unique research facility will provide scientists with new insights into the biological interactions which control sight, taste, smell and a host of internal processes central to diseases ranging from depression to arthritis.

The novel approach is based on the MAS concept, which stands for "Magic Angle Spinning" referring to the way the sample is presented for analysis. Among the new research possibilities are: snapshots of hormones and drugs bound to their protein targets, membrane structures and, ultimately, detailed knowledge into how these biological devices work in living cells.

The inauguration of the new facility will be by Mr. Rainer Gerold, Director of the Quality of Life programme of the European Commission, Drs. E.A.A.M. Broesterhuizen, Directorate Research and Science Policy, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences, and Prof. W.A. Wagenaar, Rector of Leiden University.

After the inauguration an international workshop will enable leading researchers from all over the world to discuss future directions for the new technology, based on the first results obtained with the novel instrumentation.

Details of the seminar programme are available on the web site:
Journalists wishing to attend the press conference at 13:00, the inauguration at 14:30 or workshop should contact the organisers or the European Commission.


For further information, please contact:

Hugo Zwenk, Conference organisation, Leiden University
Fax: +31-71-5274603, E-mail:

Suzanne Kiihne, EU MAS NMR facility, Leiden University
Fax: +31-71-5274603; E-mail:

Stéphane Hogan, Quality of Life programme, Research DG,
Fax: +, E-mail : Research Contact

Michel Claessens, Communication Unit, Research DG,
Fax: +, E-mail:

Project details

Full title: "NMR structures of membrane proteins, complexes and lipid assemblies; a dedicated wide-bore ultra-high-field MAS NMR spectrometer for biological research."
November 1997 - October 2000 (36 months);
Total budget:
€ 5,131,600
EU contribution:
€ 2,797,000
13 from 5 countries

Project partners

Contact person


Leiden University H.J.M. de Groot (co-ordinator) NL
Bruker Analytic GmbH G.J. Wolff DE
FMP Berlin H.E. Oschkinat DE
Oxford University A. Watts UK
University of Nijmegen Grip NL
MPI für Strahlenchemie A.R. Holzwarth DE
University of Liverpool G. Britton UK
N.V. Organon L.P.M. Orbons NL
Weizmann Institute S. Vega Israel
MPI für Biochemie B. Bechinger DE
GlaxoWellcome R.R. Cooke UK
University of Aarhus N.C. Nielsen DK
Novo Nordisk A/S R. Bywater DK

Search Top
PRESS RELEASES | 02.10.2000