Purdue breaks ground on structural biology facility

On October 19, Purdue University broke ground on the new Wayne T. and Mary T. Hockmeyer Hall of Structural Biology. The $30 million, 65,690-sq.-ft. building will provide an advanced workspace for Purdue’s Center for Structural Biology research group; the group currently is housed in the basement of Lilly Hall.

Hockmeyer Hall is named for Wayne T. Hockmeyer, Purdue alumnus and founder of biotech company MedImmune, and his wife, Mary, who gave $5.3 million toward its construction. The facility was made possible by $16 million in gifts and is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009. The building will include eight specialized labs and eight general labs for work in the areas of protein production, cell and virus culture, large molecule crystallization, x-ray diffraction, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, electron microscopy, and analytical and biophysical instrumentation.

Purdue University’s Wayne T. and Mary T. Hockmeyer Hall of Structural Biology will house research teams focusing on breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of disease. Image courtesy of Purdue University.
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One area that requires a large amount of space and carefully controlled conditions is electron microscopy. The group has five electron microscopes, three of which are advanced high-end cryoelectron microscopes that allow researchers to see nearly down to the molecular level. Each microscope takes up a small room, and the slightest vibrations can disturb the images produced. The new building will allow the group the space needed to house the large equipment necessary to advance structural biology, says Richard Kuhn, head of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Breakthroughs from the structural biology group have included fundamental insights into how important groups of human viruses infect cells, build themselves, and are recognized by the human body. Also, the group has achieved important advances in understanding the structure of membrane proteins, which are the gateways into and out of cells, Kuhn says.


compiled by Carrie Meadows

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