Courtesy of Astex Technology

For years, the process of X-ray crystallography has moved at a tortoise's pace. "When I started in the field, it would typically take 20 person-years to produce a complete atomic model of one single protein. It was like a traffic jam in New York City. Every single part of the process was slow," says Stephen Burley, chief scientific officer and senior vice president of research at San Diego-based Structural GenomiX. The biggest holdup: obtaining a suitable crystal.

Researchers can spend weeks or even months searching for optimal crystallization conditions. "You need a crystal and without a crystal you have nothing to do," explains Tom Hurley, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Indiana University. Other bottlenecks include data collection and data analysis.

Now the biotech industry and some academics are trying to kick the process up to hare speed. New high-throughput (HT) methods being developed...

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