Menlo Park, CA — Gabe Valez, an M.D., Ph.D. student, and Jing Yang, a research technician, are an integral part of the Mahajan team studying the structure and function of the calpain-5 (CAPN5) protein and its role in the development of Neovascular Inflammatory Vitreoretinopathy, a rare blinding eye disease. This eye disease is important because it mimics a number of other common eye diseases.
Using protein crystallography methods, Gabe and Jing are working on generating an atomic resolution structure of the disease protein that can help aid in designing small-molecule inhibitors to treat CAPN5 patients.
Gabe said, “Jing and I have quite a bit of experience purifying recombinant protein, growing protein crystals, and collecting data at synchrotron beamlines. But we lacked formal training in X-ray data processing, structure phasing, and model refinement. These steps are critical to solve and ‘visualize’ the atomic structure of the CAPN5 protein.”
Attending the 2019 RapiData Course in Macromolecular X-Ray Diffraction Measurement at the SLAC National Laboratory allowed Gabe and Jing to refine these skills and take their crystallography research to the next level.
RapiData is a week-long practical course aimed at educating and training young scientists in macromolecular X-ray data collection and processing methods at synchrotron beamlines, using state-of-the-art software and instrumentation. The course covers a variety of structural biology topics, including protein crystal harvesting, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), diffraction-data collection methods, hands-on data collecting and data processing. The course also featured guest lectures by Nobel Laureate, Brian Kobilka.
Jing said, “This course helped me gain more insights into structural biology, especially in protein structure data processing and refinement. It also introduced us to Cryo-EM, which we are pursuing in the lab.”
Mahajan’s approach to finding new therapies for rare and hard to treat eye diseases depends on interdisciplinary collaborations and the ability of his team to solve complex problems in novel ways.
Mahajan said, “Gabe and Jing are very bright, and I’m grateful for the training opportunities they have here at SLAC and Stanford. The structural biology community has welcomed our team and has really supported our effort to cure eye disease.”