Lilly and Argonne National Laboratory Announce $2 Million Upgrade to Lilly's Beamline CapabilitiesBy Steve McGregor • July 14, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS —Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and Company and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory announced today the completion of Lilly's $2 million upgrade to the company's research-guided beamline, located at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne's campus outside of Chicago. The APS is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility operated by Argonne.
The Lilly Research Laboratories Collaborative Access Team (LRL-CAT) beamline is a sophisticated X-ray analytical facility that produces detailed, atom-by-atom pictures of protein crystals. Its operations rely on the high-quality X-rays generated by the APS, one of the most powerful sources of X-rays for research purposes worldwide.
The data produced by the beamline and interpreted by LRL scientists provide valuable information on the interactions between potential new medicines and human disease protein targets. Lilly chemists, structural biologists, and the staff at the LRL-CAT X-ray beamline facility work together to create molecules, prepare crystals and analyze how the molecules bind to the proteins. The process is iterative, initially using beamline data to design new potential medicines with enhanced properties, which are in turn introduced into protein crystals and then re-analyzed.
The LRL-CAT upgrade included an automation component that allows unattended operation of the beamline for extended periods. Previously, LRL-CAT employees worked in shifts on nights and weekends to maintain throughput. They can now monitor and, if necessary, operate the facility from remote locations using the Internet. The result is that Lilly scientists are able to get the data they need, as quickly as possible, in order to make informed decisions on the development of future Lilly medicines. The cost of the upgrade was funded by Lilly and supports LRL's objective of producing more "timely shots in goal," in other words, getting medicines approved and available as quickly as possible to the patients who are waiting.
A simple way to think about the work Lilly scientists are conducting at its beamline facility is to view the disease protein they are studying as the "lock" and the molecule as the "key." The beamline helps researchers determine if the molecule (the key) can unlock the protein disease target (the lock) and therefore change its behavior.
To do this, Lilly chemists typically develop large numbers of molecules (keys) and add the molecules to the protein disease target (locks), developed by Lilly structural biologists, to create protein crystals. Once this process is complete, the crystals are sent to the LRL-CAT beamline facility via overnight delivery for analysis. The LRL-CAT beamline uses X-rays to determine if and how the molecule was able to "unlock" the protein, usually within minutes of acquisition. Based on the results from the data, Lilly scientists are able to quickly create better "keys." The facility currently examines more than 10,000 protein crystals per year and supports nearly half of Lilly's research portfolio.
"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. In this specific instance they have come together literally to learn to save the human mind," said Jan Lundberg, Ph.D., executive vice president, science and technology, and president, Lilly Research Laboratories.
"The APS has long been a hotspot of pharmaceutical research and has become an increasingly important tool for Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies in the research and development of new medicines," said Argonne Director Eric Isaacs. "The collaboration between Lilly and Argonne serves as an example of how researchers from different sectors can work together on the most pressing problems facing the public."
About Eli Lilly and Company
Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers—through medicines and information—for some of the world's most urgent medical needs. Additional information about Lilly is available at www.lilly.com.