P12 in Corona times: automation, remote / mail-in and scientific projects

by Clement Blanchet (EMBL Hamburg)


The last two years of pandemic with consequent lockdowns and travel restrictions had a major impact on synchrotron sources and their international users’ community. New ways of working had to be invented in particular for experiments that could help develop therapeutic drugs or vaccine against Covid-19.


BioSAXS is one of the methods used to study SARX-CoV-2 and to develop mRNA vaccine. It informs on the size and shape of biological molecules in solution. While of lower resolution than macromolecular crystallography or cryo-electron microscopy, the samples studies by SAXS are in solution, in quasi-native conditions. The buffer can be easily modified to monitor the molecule structure in different conditions. A large range of molecules size can be probed, from short polypeptide to large virus capsid. It can also be applied to construct that are difficult to characterize by other methods such as intrinsically disordered proteins.


The P12 BioSAXS beamline of EMBL Hamburg was used (i) to study synthetic nanobodies targeting SARS-CoV-2, and their interactions with the Spike protein, (ii) to characterize interaction between proteins of the replication-transcription complex of the virus and (iii) to study and develops nanoparticle used for mRNA delivery in Covid vaccine.


Here we will present how the activities of the P12 BioSAXS beamline of EMBL have been reorganized during the pandemic and give an overview of the different corona related projects measured on the instrument.