SBNet - Annual Report 1998


The composition of the Board remained unaltered during 1998:

* Dr. Björn O. Nilsson, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, Chair

* Dr. Jan Hoflack, Astra SCL

* Prof. Guy G.Dodson, University of York

* Prof. Iain D. Campbell, University of Oxford

* Prof. T. Alwyn Jones, UU, Programme Director

* Dr. Gerard J. Kleywegt, UU, Network Coordinator

The Board met only once during 1998, during the Second Annual SBNet Conference in Tällberg. At the same meeting, the Board also met with the Network Council during its meeting.


During 1998, the Structural Biology Network was evaluated ("mid-term evaluation"). The evaluation consisted of two rounds. In the first round, the SSF asked three foreign experts in structural biology (Drs. Andrew Leslie, John Kuriyan and Paula Fitzgerald) to assess and judge the success, strengths and weaknesses of the Network. Their reports were extremely positive.

In the second round, a visitation committee met with representatives of the Network Board as well as some of the scientists involved. We could not help but be disappointed by the manner in which the Foundation had organised this part of the evaluation. The meeting lead to a dismissive evaluation that recommended termination of the Network.


All available positions had been allocated during 1996 and 1997. Allocations for supporting student travel, organisation of courses, etc. are made jointly by the Chair and the Programme Director on a case-by-case basis.

Graduate training

During 1998, the Network organised two graduate courses.

* "Protein Structure & Analysis" (June; organised by Gerard Kleywegt). The course (lectures and computer practicals) was attended by 23 PhD students and post-docs from all over Sweden (and three from neighbouring Scandinavian countries), and the lectures were open to all interested scientists. The morning sessions consisted of a series of lectures and practicals on the topic of Protein Structure, taught by Prof. Carl-Ivar Brändén (Karolinska Institute). The afternoon sessions were devoted to lectures and practicals in structural biology (NMR and X-ray; taught by Dr. Paul Driscoll (University College London), Prof. T. Alwyn Jones (UU), and Dr. Gerard J. Kleywegt (UU)) and structural bioinformatics (Dr. Roman Laskowski (Birkbeck College, London)). In the evenings, research lectures on selected topics of interest were given by Dr. Paul Driscoll, Dr. Hans Hebert (Karolinska Institute), Dr. Mats Kihlén (Pharmacia & Upjohn, Stockholm), and Dr. Bengt Norén (Pharmacia & Upjohn, Stockholm). (More information about the course can be found on the SBNet web-site, at URL:

* "Protein Crystallisation" (September; joint course with Uppsala University; organised by Terese Bergfors). Some 50 applications were received for 25 places. For this reason, enrolment was extended to 40 people. Most of them were PhD students or post-docs from five different Swedish Universities or research organisations; two were technical personnel and three were employees of large pharmaceutical companies. Three internationally recognized experts in crystallisation were invited as guest speakers: Enrico Stura (Paris), Madeleine Ries-Kautt (Paris), and Naomi Chayen (London). These lecturers were selected not only on the basis of their expertise in specialised areas of crystallisation but also for their demonstrated superiority in teaching and lecturing. The course organiser, Terese Bergfors (UU), is the editor of the course book, "Protein Crystallization: a laboratory manual". The course consisted of lectures, extensive lab work, one computer session, and six workshops. A strong emphasis was placed on the practical aspects of crystallisation. The laboratory exercises, written specifically for the course book, were therefore a significant part of the course. Students were encouraged to present their own work in 15-minute lectures. Because of the enormous demand for this course, it will be repeated in September 1999. The programme from last year's course and the student evaluations can be found at URL:

At the meeting of the Network Council it was reiterated that the Network has funds for supporting advanced graduate courses and workshops, but to date few initiatives not involving a subset of the crystallographers from Uppsala have ensued. For 1999, a user-oriented workshop in the use of the refinement program CNS (used in both crystallography, NMR, and modelling) is planned, as well as a repeat of the Protein Crystallisation course. In addition, courses or workshops in structure calculation from NMR data as well as drug design are in a preliminary planning stage.

Second Annual Conference

The Second Annual SBNet Conference (8-11 May) turned out to be an eagerly awaited event. Initially, we expected ~120 participants, but the conference was booked full within days of the start of the registration process. Eventually, more than 150 participants could be accommodated at the conference venue in Tällberg. The format of the Conference was similar to that employed a year earlier, with morning and evening lecture sessions. Each session included one or two renowned foreign speakers and several talks by Swedish students and post-docs. Students and post-docs had been offered a very attractive conference fee provided they presented a poster. This resulted in a high-quality session in which more than 80 posters were presented. The Pharmacia & Upjohn Poster Award for the best poster went to Momi Iwata, UU ("The complete structure of the cytochrome bc1 complex"). Also the lectures (both by the invited speakers and by the young persons) were generally of high quality. The Astra Structural Chemistry Laboratory Award for the best presentation by a young person went to Karin Kolmodin, UU ("MD simulations of substrate dephosphorylation by a PTPase"). The traditional football match on Saturday afternoon ended in an equally traditional (5-0) victory for the X-ray/EM team over the NMR/Modelling team.

The magazine "Kemisk Tidskrift/Kemivärlden" published an article, written by Dr. Jonas Uppenberg (P&U), about the 1998 SBNet conference in its October issue (pp. 53- 55).

More information about the 1998 Conference (including the programme, list of participants, abstracts of talks and posters, a scanned version of the article in "Kemisk Tidskrift/Kemivärlden", and photos of the meeting) can be found on the SBNet web-site at URL:

Internal and external communication

For the intra-Network communication, two major instruments are used. The first is the SBNet mailing list (, through which the Swedish structural biology community is regularly informed about Network matters (e.g., calls for proposals by related SSF-funded networks, Network Conference), scientific matters (e.g., upcoming conferences, new software), educational matters (e.g., upcoming courses), new positions in academic and industrial structural biology labs in Sweden, and more. The current mailing list contains addresses of almost 200 Swedish structural biologists (PIs, researchers, post-docs, students).

The second instrument, which is also the Network's "face" to the outside world, is the SBNet site on the World-Wide Web (URL: This site is updated continuously (typically, two or three times a week) and contains a large amount of information about and related to the Network. To foster interactions between structural biologists and other biomedical scientists, a "Who is Who ?" page was recently added to the SBNet web-site. The site also contains an archive of the history, activities and results of the Network.

Travel grants

The SBNet Board has allocated funds to support various types of travel for students and post-docs whose supervising PI participates in the Network, including:

* Data-collection at SNC and MAX;

* Lab-rotation visits (Sweden);

* Student-mentor visits;

* Travel and accommodation for SBNet courses;

* Incidental support for travel to other relevant workshops inside Sweden;

* Foreign travel awards for PhD students. These awards are intended to fund travel and subsistence for a trip (1-4 weeks) to a foreign centre-of-excellence in any of the areas of (or related to) structural biology. The purpose of the trip must be to acquire expertise or know-how that is not readily available within Sweden itself. Candidates who receive an award must write a short report of their trip (that is published on the SBNet web-site), and be prepared to travel to other interested laboratories in Sweden to give a presentation about the results of their trip.

Collaborations with industry

The structural biologists from the industrial laboratories at Pharmacia & Upjohn and Astra are active and valued participants in the Network (e.g., annual conference, mailing list, mentor system). Some of the student positions sponsored by SBNet also involve close collaboration between industry and academia. During 1998, several students and post-docs from Swedish structural biology laboratories have found employment in industrial laboratories. In the future, the Network also intends to involve the industrial participants more closely in its educational activities (e.g., through a workshop on drug design co-organised by industrial scientists). Such initiatives are beneficial to both students (who get to know leading scientists in Swedish industry) and the industrial scientists (who get to know students interested in their line of research). The 1998 SBNet Conference attracted visitors from various companies (Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, Astra SCL, Biacore, Orion Pharma, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Karo Bio, and P&U Italy).

International collaborations

Essentially all groups that participate in the Network have national and international collaborations, and many participate in one or more EU-funded programmes. Since these collaborations usually arise from personal networking, merits, and research interests, the Network does not play a significant role in this process. The new "Who is Who ?" page at the SBNet web-site is intended to help biomedical scientists to identify and contact structural biologists who share some of their research interests.

Scientific reporting

The students and scientists supported through SBNet have written a report of their activities during 1998 (see the appendix). As usual, these reports have been made publicly available through the SBNet WWW site. The site also contains a cumulative list of publications in the scientific literature that describe work supported by SBNet.


GU, Gothenburg University

KI, Karolinska Institute

KTH, Royal Institute of Technology

KVA, Royal Academy of Sciences

LU, Lund University

SBNet, Structural Biology Network

SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

SNC, Swedish NMR Centre

SSF, Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research

SU, Stockholm University

UmU, Umeå University

UU, Uppsala University

SBNet Latest update at 23 March, 1999.