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Covid-19 scientific research


The ESRF provides access to its facilities for covid-19 related research projects. This exceptional access is granted with the aim to contribute to the international scientific effort to overcome the covid-19 pandemic.

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On January 30th, 2020, the WHO declared the recent outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a public health emergency of international concern. It declared that there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the newly identified virus and its possible future evolution, as well as to contain the spread, to develop precise diagnostics and treatment, and to improve the public health response and patient care.

The ESRF, in collaboration with its EPN Science campus partners, ILL, EMBL, IBS, provides a unique combination of state-of-the-art facilities and common platforms for structural biology and bio-imaging and play a full part in the collective response of the research community to the challenges posed by Covid-19.

Examples of on-going COVID-19 research:

- The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has awarded $1m to a team from UCL and the ESRF, as part of a global initiative to advance deep tissue imaging to provide new insights into health and the nature of diseases such as COVID-19. Peter Lee (UCL Mechanical Engineering) and Rebecca Shipley (UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering) together with Paul Tafforeau (ESRF) are leading the imaging research project, which will enable cellular-level imaging anywhere in whole organisms, including human organs. More info here

- An ESRF COVID-19-related research project is among the 86 projects selected by the ANR, the French project-based funding agency for research, to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This project, led by Eaazhisai Kandiah, beamline scientist at the CM01 cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility, targets the non-structural polyprotein 3 (Nsp3) of SARS-CoV2 as an important therapeutic target. More info here.

In order to contribute to the international scientific effort on Covid-19, the ESRF is willing to consider any priority research on Covid-19 that may need the exceptional use of ESRF facilities, including its cryo-electron microscope and its structural biology beamlines, which can be made available exceptionally.

For any project on Covid-19 that may need the support of the ESRF expertise and the exceptional use of ESRF facilities, please contact Harald Reichert ( or Gordon Leonard ( All proposals will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and followed up rapidly.

Research community work on Covid-19 on a longer timescale with the new EBS facility, can be submitted at any time through the ESRF User portal.



The ESRF structural biology resources that could be made available for urgent projects on COVID-19 research include:


Mail-in protein-to-structure services to support structural biology research related to COVID-19 at the EMBL Grenoble HTX Lab and the joint ESRF-EMBL MX beamlines.

The ESRF-EMBL Joint Structural Biology Group (JSBG) invite COVID-19 related proposals that can benefit from the seamless integration of the EMBL High throughput Crystallization Facility (HTX Lab) with the highly automated JSBG MX beamlines at the ESRF.  The pipeline starts with mail-in samples and integrates crystallization screening, crystal optimization, ligand soaking if required and eventually fragment screening with libraries of up to 1200 fragments. Crystals obtained will be automatically harvested and passed to the ESRF for automated X-ray data collection, with real-time access to experimental results and parameters. This pipeline is uniquely suited to support of structural biology projects in conditions of confinement and restricted access to labs. The HTX lab is already accepting crystallization projects on COVID-19 related research and three ESRF beamlines (MASSIF-1 (ID30A-1), ID30B and ID23-2) will become operational after 11 May 2020.

Users wishing to benefit from this combined access for COVID-19 research, should send an e-mail to indicating interest, whereupon a short application form will be sent for completion.