Lilly to help upgrade Argonne Lab's imaging technologies

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A $2 million upgrade to an x-ray analytical device was completed through a collaboration with Eli Lilly's research arm and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Located at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne's campus outside Chicago, the Lilly Research Laboratories Collaborative Access Team (LRL-CAT) beamline produces detailed, atom-by-atom pictures of protein crystals. Data produced by the beamline and interpreted by scientists provide information on the interactions between potential medicines and human disease protein targets, according to the release.

Lilly chemists, biologists and staff work to create molecules, prepare crystals and analyze how they interact with disease proteins. The recently completed upgrade enables Lilly's beamline to operate unattended for extended periods of time, according to the release, which now allows researchers to remotely monitor the beamline to obtain data and make informed decisions about possible future medicines.

“Utilizing the team and beamline at Argonne to develop potential medicines to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s is a great example of technology and the human mind coming together. Lilly scientists utilized beamline data to help design our beta-secretase inhibitor, which is currently in Phase I clinical testing, to determine its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jan Lundberg, PhD, executive vice president of science and technology at Lilly Research Laboratories. “In this specific instance they have come together literally to learn to save the human mind.”

Lilly said its chemists are developing molecules to interpret how they interact with protein disease targets. The LRC-CAT beamline utilizes x-rays to determine if the molecule was able to “unlock” the protein, according to Lilly, and based on results, scientists can further refine molecules for specific targets.