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Crystallography in Australia

Biomolecular Research Institute

[Peter Colman]
Protein structure analysis at Parkville dates back to the 1950s, with Bruce Fraser and Tom MacRae using X-rays and, later, Peter Tulloch using electron diffraction to study natural fibers. The laboratory took a new direction in 1978 when Peter Colman brought some of the first crystals of influenza neuraminidase to what was then the CSIRO Div. of Protein Chemistry. By 1983, the structure of neuraminidase had been solved, and the possibility of using the neuraminidase structure to develop antiviral compounds was suggested. Biota Holdings was floated in 1985 to support the development of neuraminidase inhibitors in conjunction with the Victorian College of Pharmacy. Other structure work in the 80's included electron and X-ray crystallography of neuraminidase-Fab complexes by Peter Tulloch and Bill Tulip, single crystal studies of a plant virus and structure determination of a seed storage protein by Mike Lawrence.

In 1990, the Biomolecular Research Institute was formed with Peter Colman as Director, combining virology, biochemistry and organic chemistry to providing an integrated approach to structure-based drug design. The focus of the work is on proteins of medical interest, viral and bacterial pathogens, growth factors, antibodies, carbohydrate processing enzymes and engineering protein thermostability. Having an emphasis both on basic research and on its application, a number of projects have now been taken through to the stage of drug design and synthesis. A thermostable enzyme has also been produced for the brewing industry.

Tom Garrett
SCA Newsletter No 43, November 1999