Sjors Scheres, Group Leader in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division, has been awarded the Bijvoet Medal for his outstanding contribution to furthering the field of structural biology. Sjors is the youngest ever recipient of the Medal since its inception in 1989, and is the first recipient who was trained at the Bijvoet Centre – the institute at which Sjors completed his PhD.
Sjors received the Medal at the Bijvoet Symposium, during which he gave a keynote speech about the revolutionary impact cryo-electron microscopy is having on structural biology. Sjors highlighted this with examples including the determination of the atomic structure of Tau, the protein which forms filaments in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, using cryo-electron microscopy.
Sjors’ work focusses on the development of methods that allow visualisation of molecular machines, the large and flexible macromolecular assemblies that fulfill a wide range of vital processes in the cell. Sjors uses electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) and statistical image processing techniques to obtain and analyse images from distinct conformational states. Sjors has been instrumental in the development of RELION, a computer program used for calculating cryo-EM structures. His work has also led to the visualisation of a variety of molecular machines, including ribosomes, spliceosomes and gamma-secretase, as well as the amyloid fibrils made of the protein Tau that are present in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Understanding how molecular machines perform their complicated tasks in the living cell and how their proteins aggregate in disease can provide information for structure-based drug design, which may ultimately lead to advances in treatment.
The Bijvoet Centre, a research institute at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, aims to understand how life works at the smallest level. Researchers come from a range of fields from chemistry to medicine and use advanced analytical technologies and biochemical and molecular techniques to understand life at the level of atoms and molecules.