About Structural Biotechnology


Strong connections do exist between the research areas biotechnology and structural biology. This is illustrated by the fact that many successful structural biology groups are affiliated with academic biotechnology departments. Furthermore, a large number of biotechnology enterprises being active in structural genomics have been established. Many of the large pharmaceutical companies have their own structural biotechnology departments. In several cases the main strategy is to determine protein structures at a high throughput scale. The drug companies are interested in reducing development costs and time by applying drug design based on a knowledge base regarding the target structures.

Through our work we want to connect structural biology and biotechnology. The objects we are studying are relatively difficult to handle but do play very important functional roles. Among these are membrane proteins. At least one third of all proteins are localized to membranes but only a few have been structurally characterized. This generates a fundamental problem for drug development since a large fraction of possible specific targets is membrane proteins. Furthermore, we are working on large molecular complexes, which are responsible for important functions in the body. The activities are multidisciplinary and a good example for the amalgamation of medicine and technology. Work within the structural biotechnology field is suitable for chemists, physicists, biologists as well as persons with a medical background.


Within structural biotechnology physical methods are utilized in order to visualize biological objects at the cellular and molecular level. The objectives of the activities are to:

  • Understand biological processes at the molecular and cellular level, in particular the relationship between structure and function
  • Use the knowledge and in collaboration with other groups understand different pathological states and contribute to the development of new drugs
  • Apply the methods to biotechnological process development
  • Pursue method development within structural biotechnology

Techniques and methods

The dominating techniques are:

  • High resolution transmission electron microscopy at low temperatures, cryoEM, combined with image processing methods for e.g. different types of noise reduction and 3D reconstruction
  • Other microscopy methods
  • Diffraction methods, in particular X-ray diffraction


  • 3 transmission electron microscopes
  • Preparation equipment for molecular biology, biochemistry and electron microscopy
  • High resolution image scanner
  • Linux and Unix work stations
  • Dedicated software for data processing

Premises and organization

The research group is located at the Center for Biosciences (CB), Novum, level 7. The microscopes are installed in a specially built room on the third level of the building.

CB is a unit within the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet (KI). Other methods available at CB are X-ray crystallography, light microscopy, mass spectrometry and molecular modeling

Integration between KTH and KI

Through the multidisciplinary activities in the research group we have the potential of contributing to co-operation between KTH and KI. It can be achieved through the research work, basic and advanced teaching as well as by spreading information about developments within structural biology and biotechnology. Apart from already established connections to KI we can also play an active role within KTH with regard to e.g. biotechnology, biophysics, image processing, computer science, mathematical statistics and non-biological applications of transmission electron microscopy.

Page responsible:Kenneth Carlsson
Belongs to: Structural Biotechnology
Last changed: Feb 14, 2019