International Union of Crystallography

Report on the Insubria International Summer School on "Crystallography for Health and Biosciences"

Como (Italy), June 18th-23rd, 2012

The Insubria International Summer School on "Crystallography for Health and Biosciences", organized by the Research Group of Crystallography and Structural Chemistry of the University of Insubria, took place in the ancient Cloister of Sant'Abbondio in Como (Northern Italy). The event was attended by ca. 90 participants (nearly 70 young researchers, PhD students and post-doctoral scientists, originating from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas (see the group photograph below). During the five intense days of the school, several among the most renowned scientists in their fields (14 invited speakers) have offered an advanced overview of the role of crystallography in frontier research topics, such as the pharmaceutical and biological fields and the characterization of nanomaterials for biomedical applications.


The scientific program, organized in morning and afternoon sessions, started with some introductory lectures presenting the fundamentals of matter-radiation interactions (P. Fornasini, University of Trento), the basics of structural crystallography (Hans-Beat Bürgi, University of Bern) and of conventional and synchrotron X-ray and neutron sources (P. Fornasini). All the other lessons were subdivided into three main topics: a) small molecules crystallography, with particular emphasis on the polymorphism of active pharmaceutical ingredients (J. Bernstein, University of Abu Dhabi), advanced structural methods from powder diffraction data (N. Masciocchi, University of Insubria) and forensic and patent litigation aspects related to drug formulation and process certification (W. Cabri, Sigma-Tau Rome); b) Nanoparticles for biomedical applications (diagnosis, drug delivery) and nanomaterials for tissues regeneration, (A. Cesaro, University of Trieste), and their experimental and computational characterization by advanced total scattering techniques (from powder diffraction experiments), like the Pair Distribution Function (P. Juhas, Columbia University, New York) and the Debye Function Approach (A. Cervellino, Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen, and A. Guagliardi, Crystallography Institute, CNR, Bari) and by small angle x-ray scattering techniques (P. Laggner, Institute of Biophysiscs and Nanosystems Research, Graz); c) Structural crystallography of proteins and other biological macromolecules, from the experimental point of view (J. Helliwell, University of Manchester), to several computational aspects (H. Monaco, University of Verona, and I. Eberini, University of Milano), including data mining and validation of the results by other experimental methods (R. Berisio, Institute of Biostructure and Bioimaging, Napoli, and A. Pastore, National Institute for Medical Research, London).

A complete School Program is included in the report.

We also organized lunches all together to encourage the participants to further discuss among themselves and with the teachers. Accordingly, students, teachers and tutors fruitfully merged their ideas, skills and experiences throughout the whole school time. Finally, almost all teachers volunteered in writing several chapters for a nearly 300 pages book (in English), entitled "Crystallography for Health and Biosciences", jointly edited by Norberto Masciocchi (University of Insubria) and Antonietta Guagliardi (Istitute of Crystallography, Italian CNR), published by Insubria University Press and freely distributed to all school attendees. Spare copies of the book are now available at Insubria University Press ( at the nominal cost of 20 Euros.

The Scientific Committee included:

  • Norberto Masciocchi, University of Insubria, Como, Italy (Chair)
  • Roberto Accolla, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy
  • Joel Bernstein, Ben Gurion University, Israel
  • Simon Billinge, Columbia University, USA
  • Hans-Beat Bürgi, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • Simona Galli, University of Insubria, Como, Italy
  • Antonietta Guagliardi, Istitute of Crystallography, CNR, Bari, Italy
  • Hugo Monaco, University of Verona, Italy

The Organizing Committee included:
  • Simona Galli, University of Insubria, Como, Italy (Chair)
  • Antonietta Guagliardi, Istitute of Crystallography, CNR, Bari, Italy
  • Norberto Masciocchi, University of Insubria, Como, Italy
  • Angelo Maspero, University of Insubria, Como, Italy
  • Alessia Aprea, University of Insubria, Como, Italy
  • Valentina Colombo, University of Insubria, Como, Italy
  • Ruggero Frison, Istitute of Crystallography, CNR, Bari, Italy
  • Giuseppe Cernuto, University of Insubria, Como, Italy (Webmaster)
School Program
Mo 12:00-14:15 Opening of the Registration Desk
Mo 14:30-15:00 Opening of the School
Structural Crystallography in Health and Biosciences
Mo 15:00-16:00 Basics on Matter-Radiation Interaction: P.Fornasini
Mo 16:00-17:30 Introduction to Structural Crystallography: H.B.Bürgi
Mo 17:30-18:30 X-ray and Neutron Sources: P.Fornasini
Mo 18:30-20:00 Welcome Party
Polymorphism of Drugs: Theory, Experimental Techniques and Patent Litigations
Tu 09:00-10:30 Fundamentals of Crystallization: J.M.García Ruiz
Tu 10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
Tu 11:00-12:30 Introduction to Crystal Polymorphism: J. Bernstein
Tu 12:30-14:00 Lunch
Tu 14:00-15:00 Fundamentals of Powder Diffraction: N.Masciocchi
Tu 15:00-16:00 Structural Analysis by Powder Diffraction Methods: N.Masciocchi
Tu 16:00-16:30 Coffee Break
Tu 16:30-18:00 Complementary Analytical Techniques: J.Bernstein
Tu 18:00-19:30 Crystallization Experiment Part I: J.M.García Ruiz
We 09:00-10:30 Industrial Aspects and Legal Issues: W.Cabri
We 10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
Nanomaterials in Medicine and Drug Delivery
We 11:00-12:30 Nanoparticles for Farmaceutical and Biomedical Applications: A.Cesàro
We 12:30-14:00 Lunch
We 14:00-15:00 Fundamentals of Pair Distribution Function: P.Juhás
We 15:00-16:00 PDF Applications to Nanocrystalline and Amorphous Materials: P.Juhás
We 16:00-16:30 Coffee Break
We 16:30-17:30 Debye Function Analysis: Theoretical and Experimental Aspects: A.Cervellino
We 17:30-18:30 Debye Function Analysis of Nanomaterials of Interest for Health
and Biosciences: A.Guagliardi
We 19:00-20:30 Football Match: Teachers vs Students
Th 09:00-10:30 Fundamentals of Small Angle X-ray Scattering: P.Laggner
Th 10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
Protein Crystallography: from Structure to Function
Th 11:00-12:30 Structural Diffraction Methods - Experimental Aspects: J.Helliwell
Th 12:30-14:00 Lunch
Th 14:00-16:00 Solving the Crystal and Molecular Structure: H.Monaco
Th 16:00-16:30 Coffee Break
Th 16:30-17:30 Complementary Experimental Methods - Part I: A.Pastore
Th 17:30-18:30 Complementary Experimental Methods - Part II: A.Pastore
Th 20:00-23:00 Social Dinner
Fr 09:00-10:30 Structure Prediction and Validation: I.Eberini
Fr 10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
Fr 11:00-12:30 Crystallographic Databases: R.Berisio
Fr 12:30-14:00 Lunch
Fr 14:00-14:45 From Structure to Function - Part I: R. Berisio
Fr 14:45-15:30 From Structure to Function - Part II: I. Eberini
Fr 15:30-16:30 Small Angle X-ray Scattering for Biological Macromolecules: P.Laggner
Fr 16:30-17:00 Coffee Break
Fr 17:00-18:30 Crystallization Experiment Part II: J.M.García Ruiz
Fr 18:30-19:30 Round Table Discussion and Fare Thee Well


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Grants and use of IUCr Funds

Thanks to the generous contributions of IUCr and other sponsoring Institutions, grants covering travel and/or accommodation expenses were paid to 34 participants. The total cost of grants was ca. 12600 Euros, for a school budget of nearly 55000 Euros. Only a few applicants obtained a total discount for the registration fee, which included all lunches and coffee breaks, the welcome party and the social dinner. Most of the applicants obtained a partial grant covering the accommodation (18) or the flight tickets (8); grants covering travel plus accommodation expenses were assigned to 2 participants. The IUCr contribution was assigned to 4 applicants and used to cover the travel expenses of three of them and travel plus accommodation expenses for the remaining one, as detailed in the attached form. All the awarded students were informed that their grant was paid by IUCr and registered to the World Directory of Crystallographers.