A forced — but temporary — shut down at the UK's Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) at the Central Laboratory for the Research Council's Daresbury Laboratory has sent researchers scrambling for space in other facilities, highlighting what was already an urgent need for extra synchrotron capacity. The facility will remain closed until October 29 2001.

Synchrotrons, and the highly focussed beam lines of X-rays they produce, are the premier tools for determining protein structure, a process that is critical for rational drug design. The fault at the UK facility illustrates just how important protein structure analysis is now that the human genome project is identifying thousands of genes and their products.

Engineers found the fault in one of the magnet arrays that control the radiation during routine maintenance in July 2001. The result was the introduction of water, which then froze. The part of the system affected now has to be...

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