The CSB provides an X-ray Crystallography Suite with a high-flux generator, microfocus optics, cryostreams, and two detectors; the Electron Microscopy Centre with several FEG electron microscopes and the latest direct electron detectors; a cross-faculty NMR Centre comprising 600 and 800 instruments with cryoprobes; and a Mass Spectrometry Centre comprising ultra-high sensitivity Q-Star and MALDI-TOF instruments.

The CSB also has a number of supporting facilities.  These include a Bioreactor Suite equipped for the large-scale culturing of E. coli, S. cerevisiae and P. pastoris cells in containment level 1; a high-throughput macromolecular Crystallisation Suite with crystallization and liquid-handling robotics; and a Protein Production and Analysis suite.

In addition, we can provide access to instruments for the biophysical analysis of protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions as well as for the study of protein folding and tertiary structure estimation.

Available Facilities

The majority of the facilities are located within two adjacent but interconnected buildings (Flowers and SEC) on the South Kensington campus.  The exception is the NMR Centre, which is in close proximity (RCS1).  PhD-level facility managers, with the support of dedicated technical staff, run the facilities under the direction of senior academics.

Available facilities

Biological Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)

Instrumentation within facility

Two state-of-the-art spectrometers are associated with the Department of Biological Sciences. Biologically equipped 500MHz and 800MHz shielded NMR spectrometers with cryoprobe technology.

The roles of the facility

The NMR  facility is available for screening of biological macromolecule and for research collaborations on the elucidation of detailed structural, dynamic and conformational properties of biological complexes.

  • Providing support for new and existing collaborative projects within molecular sciences
  • Assisting in the co-ordination of strategic developments in molecular sciences
  • Providing access to world class NMR facilities for students and researchers
  • Providing NMR training and teaching for students and researchers

Contact: Professor Steve Matthews

Electron Microscopy Centre

The Electron Microscopy Centre comprises four state-of-the-art TEM microscopes (FEI/Philips) for molecular (single particle) and cellular tomography at room- and cryo-temperatures.

A Vitrobot Mark IV for sample vitrification and several cryo transfer holders (e.g. Gatan 914 and 626) with and without high tilt capabilities for tomography and single particle data collection are available. A High Pressure Freezer, Freeze Substitution & Low Temperature Embedding system (EM PACT2 and AFS2, Leica) and Ultramicrotomes (for ambient and cryo temperatures) are also in house for the optimal preservation of cellular ultra structure and their sectioning.

Contact: Dr Tillman Pape

Protein Crystallisation

Arguably the most difficult step in X-ray crystallography is crystallisation. This was for a long time a very protein hungry process. However, with recent development in robotics, it is now possible to set up crystallisation experiments with 50 or 100nl drops. It is possible to screen 96 trial conditions with less than 30 ul of protein.

The CSB has recently purchased two robots for crystallisation, a Tecan freedom evo liquid handler and a Mosquito nanodrop dispenser. These were bought with money from an REI application lead by Dr Erhard Hohenester and including many members of the CSB.

These robots are available for everyone in college to use. Please contact the CSB Facilities manager, Dr Marc Morgan to discuss use of the facility and for a training session on the Mosquito robot. To register follow this link. To book time on the system, follow this link .

The CSB Crystallisation Facility also provides pre-filled plates, so anyone can test their proteins for crystallisation without a large setup cost.

To read more about the CSB crystallisation facilities, please go to the Crystallisation Facility web page, on the X-ray crystallography site .

Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry

The Mass Spectrometry facility comprises: A novel geometry electrospray tandem Quadrupole Orthogonal Acceleration Time of Flight instrument, the Q-TOF, (with on-line microbore LC), specifically designed for ultra-high sensitivity unambiguous sequencing at the low femtomole level for MHC antigen and Proteomics studies; a high field magnet wide angle array detector magnetic sector instrument for fast atom bombardment and matrix assisted laser desorption studies; a triple quadrupole tandem MS/MS instrument; a single quadrupole electron impact GC-MS instrument for sugar composition and linkage analysis.

These sophisticated instruments are complemented by ancillary equipment for advanced protein, glycoprotein and carbohydrate analysis.

Contact: Professor Anne Dell

Bioreactor Suite

The Centre for Structural Biology now manages the Bioreactor suite that was set up in 2004 by David Leak and James Mansfield. The suite contains bioreactors and accessory equipment, all of which can be booked by contacting the facility engineer, James Mansfield.  We work at containment level 1 only.

The Bioreactor suite is brilliant for expression of difficult proteins.


  • A 50 litre fermentor
  • Two 15 litre fermentors
  • Three 5 litre fermentors
  • Three 1.5 litre fermentors
  • A continuous-flow centrifuge
  • A regular large-volume centrifuge (safety note)
  • A cell disruptor (safety note)
  • A small shaking incubator (safety note)

Safety information

All work with genetically modified microorganisms requires institutional approval.  For more information, consult the pages on working with genetically modified organisms, transport of biological agents and waste disposal.  In particular, read the section on forms and procedures.

Safety information specific to the Bioreactor suite:


Internal users can access a list of charges imposed to cover the cost of running of the facility.