University of Nottingham researchers, investigating the structure of biological molecules, new materials and processes, will be able to take advantage of new, precision NMR instrumentation that will be operating in eight UK universities, thanks to a major £20 million investment in research infrastructure.
The Centre for High-field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) based in the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences on University Park underpins a wide range of projects across the physical and life sciences. An upgrade of the existing 800 MHz system will provide enhanced sensitivity and an increased range of applications.
Potential developments enabled by the technology include, amongst others, insights into protein structure and interactions, catalytic processes, next-generation pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, energy materials, food and nutrition, and improved understanding of antibiotic resistance.
The investment was announced by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on behalf of three other research councils, the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), who have supported the funding and also form part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
Centre Manager Dr Huw Williams runs collaborative projects with the Schools of Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Biosciences, Pharmacy, Life Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, as well as supporting a number of industry collaborations.
The Centre Director, Mark Searle, Professor of Biological Chemistry in the School of Chemistry said: “This upgrade represents a total investment of £1,239,909 – 20% from the University and £965,910 from EPSRC. The breadth of projects supported by this facilitiy is already extensive and this additional funding will allow us to expand the capabilities into new areas with a range of new applications.”
As part of this investment in the UK NMR community, Nottingham will contribute to the UK network of shared expertise and facilities, particularly across the Midlands Innovation (MI) Group. Some of the instrument time will be used to support collaborations with other Midlands Universities.
UKRI’s Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “The UK’s global stature in research and innovation is founded on access to internationally competitive infrastructure. This investment means researchers will have new systems that provide greater sensitivity and a greater understanding of molecular structures, with potential impacts in pharmaceuticals, biomaterials, materials science and biotechnology.”
Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice Chancellor at Lancaster University, who wrote two reports on NMR infrastructure on behalf of EPSRC in 2013 and 2017, and helped EPSRC develop the call for proposals, said: “The UK has a longstanding reputation for excellence in the development and application of NMR. Recent reviews of NMR showed that, while there had been good levels of investment in NMR infrastructure, in recent years the UK had come off the pace in terms of the very highest fields available to our community compared to our major international competitors.
“This welcome and very substantial investment will provide the UK community with new cutting-edge facilities, while modernising existing facilities. This is a hugely welcome boost for UK research to be able to compete with the very best.”