Published on: June 5, 2021



What : Cryogenic electron microscopy is an electron microscopy technique applied on samples cooled to cryogenic temperatures and embedded in an environment of vitreous water. An aqueous sample solution is applied to a grid-mesh and plunge-frozen in liquid ethane or a mixture of liquid ethane and propane.

What is in news : Researchers would soon have access to four Cryogenic-Electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) facilities paving the way towards establishment of leadership in structural biology, enzymology, and drug discovery to combat new and emerging diseases.


  • Location- Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai; Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay; Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; and Bose Institute, Kolkata
  • IIT Chennai will focus on nano-biointerfaces
  • IIT Bombay will execute research on ribosome translation and its implication in disease and antibiotic resistance
  • IIT Kanpur will conduct research focused on macromolecular structures and drug discovery with a specific focus on membrane proteins
  • Bose Institute, Kolkata will focus on transforming the structure-guided drug discovery and therapeutics research for communicable and non-communicable diseases, allosteric drugs, transcription, and epigenetics.
  • The first national cryo-EM facility was established at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in 2017 and then subsequently in IISc, Bangaluru, and RCB Faridabad. However, it was felt that the existing cryo-EM research facilities in the country are not adequate to leave a mark at the global stage.
  • The National Facilities supported by the Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), an institution under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), would help explore Macromolecular Structures and Complexes” and create research knowledge base and skills for cryo-EM research in India to establish leadership in structural biology, enzymology, ligand/drug discovery.

What is the success of Cryo-EM :

  • Cryo-EM has revolutionized structural investigations of macromolecules in recent times. It is a testimonial for a revolutionary technology for structural biologists, chemical biologists, and ligand discovery, which has gained a clear edge over contemporary x-ray crystallography.
  • In light of these advancements, cryo-electron microscopy technique was recognized with the Nobel Prize for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution (2017).
  • The revolution in resolution resulted in atomic-level understanding of the Zika virus surface proteins, thus aiding structure-based drug discovery, deciphering of structure of hard-to-crystallize membrane proteins and other macromolecular complexes.