SBNet - Annual Report 1999


The composition of the Board remained unaltered during 1999:

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

* Dr. Jan Hoflack, AstraZeneca 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 1999, during the Third Annual SBNet Conference in Tällberg. At the same meeting, the Board also met with the Network Council (all PIs). During this meeting, the joint PIs also decided to try and obtain support from SSF for a five-year continuation of the Network-part of SBNet (annual conference, workshops, courses, travel support, web site, mailing list, mentor system, coordinator, etc.). The future of the Network was discussed further in December, when the Programme Director and the Network Coordinator met with the SSF Biosciences advisory group in Stockholm.


All available positions have 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 1999, the Network organised two graduate courses.

* "Practical Protein Crystallisation" (September; joint course with Uppsala University; organised by Terese Bergfors, UU). Number of credits for the course: 1 point. Total number of applicants: 70 (only 22 could be accepted due to lab-space and equipment limitations). Number of participants from SBNet: 21 (includes 5 from industry). Number of other, non-SBNet participants: 1 (from Denmark). Number of external participants from industry: 5. This course is not given via the Internet, since it is a laboratory course.

* "Workshop on Cryo-Microscopy & Computer Image Reconstruction" (October; organised by Holland Cheng and Lena Hammar, KI). Number of credits for the course: 2 points. Total number of participants: 35. Number of participants from SBNet: 5 students and 7 PhDs. Number of other, non-SBNet students: 4. Number of external participants from industry: 6. This course is not given via the Internet. The examination was fulfilled by a written synopsis on an individual topic from the course scheme. The evaluation pointed to satisfied, mostly very satisfied students (average score 8, on a scale from 1, very unsatisfied, to 9, very satisfied) as based on Karolinska Institute standard evaluation form. In particular there were positive comments on the selection of distinguished speakers, the enthusiasm of the speakers, the depth of the approach and the balanced mix of scientists and experts from industry. Viruses were considered somewhat overemphasised and some would have liked more time for experimental work and information about literature in advance. The course was co-sponsored by SBNet, KI, and SCANDEM.

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 University, have ensued. However, for the year 2000 no fewer than five courses and workshops are planned, and two of these are organised and held outside Uppsala.

The SBNet mentor system has been evaluated during 1999 by having the SBNet-funded students answer a list of questions (response: 95%). The results are available from the SBNet web site, but in general the system was perceived as something very positive, albeit that the tangible impact of the system is modest at this stage.

Third Annual Conference

The Third Annual SBNet Conference (Tällberg, 11-14 June) was again an eagerly awaited event with more than 160 participants (including 17 from industry and 11 foreign speakers and Board members). The format of the Conference was similar to that employed previously, with morning and evening lecture sessions. Each session included one or two renowned foreign speakers and several talks by Swedish students and post-docs. The Saturday evening session, however, was special. It was organised in honour of Prof. Carl-Ivar Brändén (KI) on the occasion of his 65th birthday, and in recognition of the pivotal role he has played in the development of structural biology in Sweden. Five prominent foreign speakers, selected by Prof. Brändén, had been invited (co-sponsored by KVA): Bryce Plapp, Jean-Pierre Samama, George Lorimer, Janet Smith, and Wayne Hendrickson. The other scientific sessions were devoted to Methodology, Membrane proteins, Bioinformatics, and Hot structures.

Almost 80 posters were presented in a high-quality poster session. The Pharmacia & Upjohn Poster Award for the best poster went to Kenth Johansson, SLU ("Structural basis for light activation"). 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 Devapriya Choudhury, SLU ("Donor strand complementation: implications in protein folding"). The traditional football match on Saturday afternoon ended in an equally traditional (3-2) victory for the X-ray/EM team over the NMR/Modelling team.

More information about the 1999 Conference (including the programme, list of participants, abstracts of talks and posters, and many 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, annual 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 250 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 is maintained. The site also contains an archive of the history, activities and results of the Network. During 1999, the SBNet web site was visited almost 17,000 times, and served more than 61,000 web pages (these counts do not include images, visits by robots, etc.). For comparison: during 1997 the web site was visited ~6,000 times, serving ~26,000 pages).

Travel grants

The SBNet Board has allocated funds to support various types of travel for participants 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;

* 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. During 1999, foreign travel awards were awarded to Ellinor Eriksson, Emma Jakobsson, Andreas Muranyi, and Cecilia Svensson. Their travel reports can be found on the SBNet web site.

SBNet Lecturer

A few years ago, the SBNet Board decided to allocate a small surplus (due to income from interest) to support foreign travel (see above) and an annual "SBNet lecturer". This was envisaged to be a foreign structural biologist who had made pivotal contributions to the field, and who would be invited to tour all the structural biology laboratories in Sweden for a period of 10-14 days. In 1999, the first SBNet lecturer was Dr. Ad Bax (NIH), one of the world's foremost experts on NMR spectroscopy, who kindly accepted our invitation. Dr Bax travelled extensively through Sweden during a 10-day period at the end of 1999, visiting all structural biology centres, giving seminars and interacting with the local scientists. Judging from the reactions of both the community and Dr Bax, the SBNet lectureship is greatly appreciated and worth continuing.

Collaborations with industry

The structural biologists from the industrial laboratories at Pharmacia & Upjohn, AstraZeneca, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, Karo Bio and Active Biotech Research are active and valued participants in the Network (e.g., annual conference, mailing list, mentor system). Some of the positions sponsored by SBNet also involve close collaboration between industry and academia. During 1999, several students and post-docs from Swedish structural biology laboratories have found employment in industrial laboratories. The Network also attempts to involve the industrial participants more closely in its educational activities (e.g., a workshop on drug design that will be held at KI in June, 2000, is organised jointly by academic and 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).

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 their establishment. The "Who is Who ?" page on the SBNet web-site is intended to help biomedical scientists to identify and contact structural biologists who share some of their research interests.

SSF check-list

The Foundation has come up with a list of items to be addressed in the annual report. Unfortunately, this list is completely unsuitable for capturing the activities of a loose and heterogeneous, networked organisation such as SBNet. We have therefore opted to write our report in the same fashion as we have done in the past. Any items mentioned in the SSF list and not addressed in the report above are included below.

1. Individual activities of PhD students

Enclosed separately (student forms).

2. Joint graduate training activities

2.1. These are discussed elsewhere in this report.

2.2. None.

2.3. Seminars are not tracked by us. Annual conference open to all interested in structural biology.

2.4. None.

2.5. Discussed elsewhere in this report. Visitors of the individual laboratories are not tracked by us.

3. Research activities in addition to PhD projects

3.1. These are described in the Appendix.

3.2. This is a very poor way to organise a report, at least for our Network. Hence, any such activities are included with the individual reports in the Appendix.

4. Results: publications, patents, etc.

4.1. These are included in the student forms and/or in the Appendix. One reprint of every publication is enclosed.

4.2. None that we know of. Otherwise they would be described as 4.1.

4.3. We do not.

4.4. Not tracked by us.

5. Collaboration with industry and other sectors of society

5.1. These are included in the student forms and/or in the Appendix where applicable.

5.2. Two of the Board members are from industry, and have been ever since SBNet's inception.

5.3. Participation of industrial scientists in the Network is discussed in this report.

5.4. Mentor system.

5.5. All described previously. Evaluation discussed elsewhere in this report.

6. International collaborations and relations.

6.1. None.

6.2. Not tracked by us. Otherwise they are included in the student forms and/or in the Appendix where applicable.

6.3. Two of the Board members are foreign experts, and have been ever since SBNet's inception.

6.4. In Europe: Cambridge, Oxford, York, München. No formal relations. One Board member from York, one from Oxford.

7. Collaboration with other SSF programmes, etc.

7.1. None. However, several PIs in SBNet are also involved in other SSF-supported activities (glycobiology, neurobiology, bioinformatics, etc.).

7.2. Travel support for the Swedish NMR Centre and the MAX-II synchrotron. Joint workshops where opportune.

8. Information activities.

8.1. Policy: minimal use of paper; all communication done electronically; all documents, reports, etc. are publicly available through the web site.

8.2. See 8.1 and elsewhere in this report. Network Coordinator is web-master (1-4 hours per week; more during preparations for the annual conference).

8.3. Web site.

8.4. See 8.1. We do not produce any paper (other than in our communication with the Foundation).

9. Self-monitoring and quality assurance

9.1. This is (and always has been) the responsibility of the Board, and in particular its four external members. It is also worth mentioning that the review carried out by foreign experts in 1998 was very positive about SBNet.

10. Economic report

10.1. Enclosed separately.


GU, Gothenburg University

KI, Karolinska Institute

KTH, Royal Institute of Technology

KVA, Royal Swedish 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 4 April, 2000.