ICCP450 Conference, Washington DC, USA

ICCP450 Conference

Jasmin Aschenbrenner attended the 22nd ICCP450, held from 17 to 21 July 2022, where she presented her PhD research on CYP505A30. Conference topics included the medical and pharmacological importance of cytochrome P450s and their biotechnological potential, with talks from highly respected P450 researchers, such as Profs David Nelson, Elizabeth Gillam, and Osami Shoji. Aschenbrenner’s registration fee and part of her travel costs were funded through the IUBMB Travel Fellowship.

ICCP450 Conference 2

Biotrans2021 Graz, Austria (Virtual)

Despite the Covid19-lockdown and travel restriction, the Biocatalysis group attended the 15th International Symposium on Biocatalysis and Biotransformations (Biotrans 2021) which were hosted online by the University of Graz, Austria. The group presented their work in the form of six online-posters and participated in live-discussion sessions.

CATSA2019, Langebaan, SA

The Biocatalysis group and visiting affiliated professor in the department, Prof Frank Hollmann (TUDelft, the Netherlands), attended the annual Catalysis Society of South Africa (CATSA2019) conference in Langebaan from 10 to 13 November 2019. Prof Hollmann delivered a plenary lecture titled Specific oxyfunctionalisation chemistry using peroxygenases. Prof Dirk Opperman gave a keynote lecture titled Baeyer-Villiger monooxygenases: from synthesis of abnormal lactones to cascade reactions enabling one-pot syntheses. Prof Martie Smit and Jasmin Aschenbrenner presented lectures, and the postgraduate students presented their research as posters.


CATSA2019 2

CATSA2019 3

Biotrans2019, Groningen, the Netherlands

Jasmin Aschenbrenner, Dr Ana Ebrecht, and Dr Rodolpho do Aido-Machado attended the 14th International Symposium on Biocatalysis and Biotransformations (BioTrans) in Groningen, the Netherlands, which took place from 7 to 11 July. The focus of the conference this year was the evolution and redesign of natural enzymes for either higher stability or new (chemo)enzymatic cascades, as well as the design of novel classes of artificial enzymes. Prof Frances Arnold, Nobel prize winner in Chemistry in 2018, was one of the keynote speakers.


Diamond data collection workshop, University of Pretoria, SA

Diamond data collection workshop

The Diamond Light Source Data Collection Workshop was held at the University of Pretoria from 10 to 11 July 2019. This workshop was held to teach more advanced data collection strategies via the Diamond Light Source (UK) remote access system to young and upcoming African scientists interested in structural biology. Dr Dave Hall (leader of the MX science group), Dr Ralf Flaig (Principal Beamline Scientist of I04), and Dr Alice Douangamath (Senior Beamline Scientist of I04-1) presented a series of lectures on the proper use of the sophisticated software to ensure timely transport and delivery of crystals intended for remote data collection, as well as different experimental methods that are available to the remote access user. Staff members, postdoctoral researchers, and postgraduate students from universities across South Africa participated, many of whom are currently collecting remote data at Diamond as part of the South African Structural Biology Consortium.
The workshop was attended by Dr Carmien Tolmie from the Biocatalysis and Structural Biology research group in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, and Francois Jacobs from the Inorganic Chemistry group in the Department of Chemistry at the UFS.

Research visit to the Structural Genomics Consortium, University of Oxford

Research visit to the Structural Genomics Consortium 2

Carmien Tolmie is a postdoctoral researcher within the GCRF-START collaboration (Global Challenges Research Fund – Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology) between the Diamond Light Source, United Kingdom, and several research groups at South African universities. She was hosted by the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), University of Oxford, UK, for a two-month research visit between May and June 2019, enabled by GCRF-START. The SGC is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership with the directive to carry out fundamental science of relevance to drug discovery. The core mandate of the SGC is to determine 3D structures on a large scale and cost-effectively – targeting human proteins of biomedical importance and proteins from human parasites that represent potential drug targets.

Research visit to the Structural Genomics Consortium

Tolmie was hosted by the Biotechnology research group, headed by Dr Nicola Burgess-Brown, under the guidance of Dr Alejandra Fernández-Cid. She performed high-throughput cloning and expression experiments to prepare DNA constructs of genes encoding for fungal drug targets. Tolmie was also hosted in the Protein Crystallography (Px) group, headed by Dr Frank von Delft, under Dr Lizbé Koekemoer, where she performed high-throughput protein purification and crystallisation trials of the fungal proteins.

During this period, she also attended the BAG workshop on the macromolecular beamlines at Diamond, at Diamond Light Source, Didcot, UK, which is held to train researchers who are part of a Block-Allocated Grant of Beamtime.

GCRF-START Launch event, Oxford, UK

GCRF – START (Global Challenges Research Fund – Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology) is a collaborative funding stream between South Africa and Diamond Light Source. This collaboration is part of the United Kingdom's official development assistance to support cutting-edge research to address developing countries’ problems. This grant aims to establish collaboration between world-leading researchers in the UK and emerging talent in Africa in the fields of structural biology and energy materials. Carmien Tolmie attended the United Kingdom's START launch event, held at St Catherine's College, Oxford, from 27 to 28 March 2019, on behalf of the Biocatalysis and Structural Biology research group in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry at the University of the Free State. The launch event aimed to bring together members of the START participating research groups from South Africa and the UK. Members included principal investigators, postdoctoral research assistants (PDRAs), and other guests to discuss updates and news on the project to facilitate greater collaboration and to learn about synchrotron, cryo-electron microscopy, and other associated techniques. Tolmie presented the progress of the Biocatalysis and Structural Biology group and also led the START Opportunities Committee's brainstorming session to discuss the PDRA needs, research, and other opportunities such as workshops and how to structure outreach events in future.

GCRF-START Launch event

Biophysics and Structural Biology at Synchrotrons, Cape Town, SA

The Biophysics and Structural Biology at Synchrotrons workshop was held at the University of Cape Town from 17 to 24 January 2019. The workshop aimed to introduce young, primarily African, bioscience researchers to the power of synchrotron-based facilities. The workshop comprised lectures by international experts on all aspects of structural biology projects and techniques for structural biology at synchrotrons, a remote X-ray diffraction data collection session on Diamond Lightsource (UK), and a hands-on experimental session and software tutorials.

The workshop was attended by Dr Ana Ebrecht, Dr Rodolpho do Aido Machado, Carmien Tolmie, and Jasmin Aschenbrenner from the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, and Francois Jacobs from the Department of Chemistry at the UFS. The attendees had the opportunity to present their work as both a presentation and a poster to the lecturers and students to discuss progress and future experimental work. GCRF-START and the National Research Foundation funded the International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics workshop. Tolmie and Jacobs both won Outstanding Poster prizes for the presentation of their research.

Biophysics and Structural Biology at Synchrotrons

Biophysics and Structural Biology at Synchrotrons 2

Biophysics and Structural Biology at Synchrotrons 3

C*Change2018, Bela Bela, SA

c change

Prof Martie Smit and postgraduate fellows from the Biocatalysis research group attended the C*Change Symposium 2018 in Bela-Bela from 9 to 11 November 2018. They discussed the recent advances in alkane activation research and the impact of these results on the local industry and economy.

CCP4/MX2018 Macromolecular crystallography school, San Carlos, Brazil

Macromolecular crystallography school 2

The CCP4/MX2018 Macromolecular Crystallography School on the topic ‘From data processing to structure refinement and beyond’ was held in the Institute of Physics at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 14 to 24 November 2018. Carmien Tolmie attended this workshop, which consisted of lectures by experts on protein crystallography and data processing and hands-on tutorials, allowing students to work on their data with the lecturers. A poster session allowed participants to present their research to fellow participants and lecturers. They, in turn, gave valuable suggestions on improving the quality of research and the presentation of work. The workshop content was of extremely high quality. Still, it provided ample time to speak to the lecturers and participants in a more informal setting, allowing networking that may lead to future international collaborations.

Macromolecular crystallography school

START joint launch event at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA

Carmien Tolmie attended the first joint GCRF-START meeting for structural biology and material science, held from 18 to 19 September 2018 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers, and postgraduate students from numerous groups in both disciplines attended and presented an overview of their research and how their work ties in with the START initiative. Chris Nicklin, the head PI of the START initiative at the Diamond synchrotron, attended the meeting and led strategic discussions on the layout of the grant and navigating funding, future collaborations, education, and outreach. While researchers from both structural biology and material science use synchrotron techniques, the two fields operate mainly in isolation. This meeting provided an interface for researchers from various institutions and disciplines to learn about each other's work and get to know the researchers in person. The presentations on the projects of material science, and the diversity of the synchrotron techniques used, were very insightful. The meeting also allowed the PI, postgraduate students, and postdoctoral researchers in structural biology to liaise and discuss future data collections at the Diamond synchrotron.


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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