Science Directors: Jan Steyaert & Han Remaut
At the VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology (CSB), we study the structure and dynamics of macromolecular complexes in health and disease to explain their mode of action. We integrate our structural biology work with genetic and cellular studies, aiming to bridge molecular and cellular resolution. We excel in translating our discoveries into biotechnological and medical applications.
A lot of our research projects are conducted in close partnership with other research groups around the world. The center also founded Nanobodies4Instruct as part of Instruct-ERIC, one of the first ESFRI projects that provides cutting-edge technology, scientific expertise and pioneering training. Any scientist from an Instruct member state can submit a proposal for access to the Nanobodies4Instruct center for the generation of conformational Nbs and now also megabodies to facilitate the structural analysis of proteins that are notoriously difficult to purify, crystallize or study by any other method.
In accordance with VIB’s entrepreneurial spirit, CSB has an excellent track record in terms of spin-offs, even though it has a strong focus on fundamental research. The prime example is the development of Nanobody® technology, which gave rise to Ablynx and other companies. This was achieved with a healthy internal mix of science and entrepreneurship, complemented and supported by the strengths of VIB’s valorization team.
- Ablynx is focused on the discovery and development of Nanobodies®, a novel class of antibody-derived therapeutic proteins based on single-domain antibody fragments, for a range of serious human diseases including inflammation, haematology, oncology and pulmonary disease.
- AgroSavfe employs its proprietary Agrobody™ technology platform to develop superior crop protection products, based on active ingredients with proven efficacy, in combination with Agrobodies™ as formulation agents.
- Confo Therapeutics uses single domain antibodies to stabilize dynamic proteins, in order to improve drug discovery processes.
Turning excellence in Structural Biology into value for society
Structural biology is undergoing a major leap forward in defining three-dimensional submicroscopic structures because of the development of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and from novel approaches to imaging in cell biology. Our common future lies in an integrated center that supports the major methodologies for structural biology (biophysics, NMR, X-ray and cryoEM) complemented with unique and differentiating platforms (cfr. Nanobody technology). Structural biology insights are evaluated and challenged in their cellular and in vivo context. This interdisciplinary and integrative approach gives us enormous leverage to produce excellent educational opportunities, carry out grand challenge science, and stimulate research-based economic development.
An integrated structural biology approach
Our structural biology aims to answer key questions in biological systems, primarily located in the area of protein signaling cascades and host-pathogen interaction. Atomic level structural and biophysical insights are challenged and validated in their biological context through in vivo and in vitro experimentation, generating integrated models of the mode of action and regulation of the molecular processes and pathways involved.
Creating the Flanders Biological Electron Microscopy Center
Recent breakthroughs in both hard- and software transformed single-particle cryo-microscopy. This enables an increased understanding of complex biomolecules and their functions at atomic level. To contribute significantly to this new level of scientific enquiry, CSB invested in cryo-EM. A competitive FWO-HERCULES grant allowed us to set up the first Belgian cryo-EM facility equipped with 300 kV FEG microscope and direct electron detector to be operational from 2019 on.
Funding & partners
Our research is supported by the Flemish government and several (inter)national funding bodies but also by numerous charity organizations that recognize the importance of combining fundamental and clinical research to generate therapeutic breakthroughs.
VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology
Vrije Universiteit Brussel