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Jenkins, J. (2007) Protein Crystallography: Automating a temperamental science, Lab Manager Oct 31.

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mosquito LCP

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With the evolution of proteomics and the completion of the human genome project, protein crystallography has developed into a key area of pharmaceutical research. The sensitivity of this technique for identifying three dimensional protein structures means it has proved invaluable for the process of rational drug design. As a result, the protein crystallography laboratory has been subject to growing pressures. As technological advances have allowed screening laboratories to increase throughput and maximize hit-to-lead success, it was rapidly realized that in order to prevent bottlenecks in the discovery pipeline, the protein crystallography lab must also keep pace. This has not been easy as individual proteins or protein families have specific requirements and crystallography methodologies and manual techniques are traditionally used for crystallization set-up and optimization. Nevertheless, in recent years technology providers have developed innovative technologies for the protein crystallography lab without compromising experimental flexibility and most of all, data quality. But what has this meant for the lab manager? What are the financial implications of such investment? How has the move to automated technologies been accepted by the scientists in what was once a very “hands-on” discipline?