Structural Biology provides three-dimensional information on the molecular architecture of biological macromolecules—proteins, nucleic acids, and their complexes. It seeks to understand the molecular details of their formation, actions, and functions through techniques like cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Structural Biology is deeply interconnected with Cell Biology, Computational Biology, Chemical Biology, Pharmacology, and many other areas of biological research. Knowledge provided by these techniques on the biological macromolecules is fundamental to understanding insights into the biological processes and mechanisms at the molecular level, guiding efforts in drug design and disease understanding.
The Institute of Structural Biology at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Perelman School of Medicine was established in 2023. The Institute of Structural Biology hosts 30 research laboratories and catalyzes novel advances in the areas of structural biology, meets structural biology needs on the UPenn campus, and promotes collaborative studies across the biomedical community. The Institute of Structural Biology also serves as a hub for training and education in structural biology, providing opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career researchers to gain hands-on experience with the latest techniques and methods. The Institute of Structural Biology hosts seminars, biennial symposia and provides pilot project grants.
Dr. Vera Moiseenkova-Bell is the Director of the Institute of Structural Biology, the Beckman Center for Cryo Electron Microscopy (cryoEM) and the Electron Microscopy Resource Laboratory. She is a Professor at the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at the Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Moiseenkova-Bell is a membrane protein biochemist and a structural biologist with expertise in cryoEM. Her research is focused on structure-function analysis of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels and their interaction with agonists/antagonists to enhance our understanding of their function at the molecular level. In addition, her laboratory research program seeks to understand how TRP channels regulate cellular functions and the role of their dysregulation in human disease.
Dr. Yi-Wei Chang serves as the Associate Director at the Institute of Structural Biology and holds the position of Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. With a strong background in structural biology and engineering, Dr. Chang specializes in the utilization and advancement of cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) methods and related technologies for investigating molecular structures inside cellular context. His research group employs cryo-ET to investigate a wide spectrum of host-pathogen interactions, unraveling the structural mechanisms behind various diseases that can only be elucidated through such in situ structural biology methods.