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Facility Profile: Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology (CMCB)

The Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology is a fee-for-use facility available to internal and external academic users and industrial clients. It is equipped with instrumentation for advanced chemical biology research, and staffed by an expert team of scientists who are available to help design experiments and train users on new equipment. The facility is divided into six core labs, which have the necessary equipment for small molecule high-throughput screening, protein and cell biology, chemical synthesis, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and bioinformatics analysis.

High-throughput screening is one of the flagship services offered at the CMCB. The lab offers a diverse collection of chemical compounds for screening on the robotics systems, including under biosafety level 2 conditions. The current compound collection includes 323,000 compounds, including drug-like synthetics and many off-patent natural products. Screens can be cell-based or biochemical in nature, and range from pilot- to large-scale campaigns. The HTS lab was the first of its kind to be established in an academic setting in Canada, offering a world of possibilities to IIDR trainees.

There are also advantages to using CMCB equipment in your daily workflow. While it is possible to purify a protein or pipette multi-well assay plates by hand on the benchtop, using an AKTA purifier or a liquid handling robot in the CMCB allows you to walk away from your experiment and get something else done. Likewise, the CMCB is equipped with TECAN plate readers for automated growth curve generation, and a stand-alone EnVision plate reader that can hold and automatically read up to 50 screening plates for increased throughput. These are just a few examples of the type of equipment in the CMCB that can significantly increase your productivity.

Since infectious disease research is multidisciplinary, the services and equipment in the CMCB address the needs of both chemists and biologists. For the chemists, the Synthesis Lab is equipped with the tools necessary for natural product isolation, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. This list includes three CombiFlash Rf200 automated flash chromatography systems (with both reverse- and normal-phase set ups) and several systems for sample concentration (lyophilizers, Genevacs and rotary evaporators). The biologists have access to a 96-well plate quantitative RT PCR system that can perform automated gene expression analyses, a scalable benchtop fermentor system (1 L, 7.5 L and 14 L vessel capacities available), and a number of biosafety level 2 safety cabinets for the safe handling of pathogens or tissue culture. What trainees may not realize is that the CMCB also has extra shakers, incubators and flow hoods available for use when space in your own lab is booked up.

For a detailed list of equipment and services offered at the CMCB, please visit its website. Here you will also find a link to an online booking portal. For additional information, please contact Dr. Tracey Campbell at campbtl@mcmaster.ca.

Julie Perry, Postdoctoral fellow, Wright Lab.