A NEW Pounds 4 million centre for research in biomolecular sciences at the University of Leeds, which opened last week, brings together for the first time the high-technology equipment needed for research on the structures and functions of biological molecules using techniques such as X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, electron microscopy, DNA sequencing, organic synthesis, and computer modelling.
Alan Wilson, vice-chancellor of the university, said: "We realised that we had to put biology at the top of the list in the future development of research here. We had to find a way to raise the money for new facilities."
The university was already committed to building a new home for the biology department, and it was cheaper to build both at once. A loan of about Pounds 3 million from the Wellcome Trust, and help from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, made it possible to incorporate new chemistry laboratories with the biology facilities.
Peter Henderson, dean of the research school in the faculty of biological sciences, said that the school has already attracted research funding. "Our yearly research spend has more than tripled to Pounds 8.6 million since 1990. We aim to hit Pounds 10 million by 2000."
The new Astbury building is the focus of research in other areas besides protein and nucleic acid research. It is adjacent to the Leeds General Infirmary, and medical research has a high priority.
Research groups are studying the structure of transport proteins in bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistance. Peter Johnson of the school of chemistry and his group are using software developed at Leeds to design new drugs for sleeping sickness and arthritis.