Enhancing 800 MHz NMR Capabilities at Nottingham

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


NMR spectroscopists from across the UK are working towards the establishment of a co-ordinated strategy for provision of world-class NMR infrastructure. Establishing a linked network of facilities will provide for UK-wide access to new state-of-the-art capabilities, training and expertise in NMR technologies for the physical and life sciences. Here we demonstrate how the proposed investment at the University of Nottingham will contribute to the national effort and promote regional collaborations and access to the facilities to researchers across the Midlands. We are committed to being fully integrated within the UK NMR community across academia and industry and to engage with funding agencies to establish a sustainable network and funding mechanisms, and to share best practice.

NMR is a key analytical technique for studying the molecular composition, structure and properties of novel materials and real-time monitoring of processes and reactions. There are no other techniques which offer such versatility and breadth of potential applications to interdisciplinary researchers at all of the key interfaces across the physical sciences, engineering, biosciences and medicine. The current collaborative open-access framework around our high-field NMR facility embraces all of these disciplines and impacts widely in areas of public interest, for example, around food security and food nutrition; the development of new sustainable materials and processes for every day devices and for energy storage; studies of fundamental bioscience for understanding of aspects of human health; chemical biology linked to drug-discovery in areas from autism to neurodegeneration and stroke; development of novel biocatalysts linked to industrial biotechnology and our sustainable future. The Nottingham Facility is already supporting this incredible breadth of activity, and this proposed upgrade will extend the lifetime, sensitivity and capabilities to the next level, to continue to support Nottingham's, and hence the UK's, international research competitiveness.

By upgrading the 800 MHz high-field NMR facility we will provide our broad user base, which reaches across the physical and life sciences, with the NMR infrastructure to address a myriad of questions, to allow researchers at Nottingham to remain competitive and at the cutting edge in key research areas, allow us to extend the breadth of our activities into new areas and draw in new collaborations, and maximise the wider impact of our research. The upgrade, and suite of new probes for different applications, will allow key research questions to be addressed that were previously out of range of our current capabilities. Significantly, the proposed upgrade accommodates new capabilities to now study solid-materials at high resolution and sensitivity where previously this was only possible on a lower-field (600 MHz instrument) of lower-sensitivity and more limited capabilities.

This suite of instrumentation presents a diverse multi-functional facility for the integrated characterisation of both large and small molecules, solutions and solids, in a single facility. The requested spectrometer upgrade will: (i) ensure that the current 800 MHz magnet has the highest performance currently possible at this field strength, (ii) will open up previously inaccessible areas of research particularly in the study of solid materials, (iii) add new capacity and capabilities to the network of UK NMR facilities and provide local and regional access to researchers across the Midland HEIs and Industry, (iii) provide unprecedented versatility to support a wide range of research projects across the RCUK physical and life science priority areas, (iv) contribute to high quality publications in internationally leading journals, (v) support the international research competitiveness of Nottingham and the UK.

Planned Impact

Impact on Society: The general public will benefit both directly and indirectly from the proposed projects which impact on improvements in well-being and the quality of life, on issues such as food composition, diet and healthy eating, antibiotic resistance, generation of new medicines and healthcare products, better understanding of disease and prevention, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, improved diagnosis of diseases, sustainable processes linked to renewable feedstocks, waste processing, minimising environmental pollution, the impact of industrial biotechnology, developing smart new materials for high-tech applications in portable devices, computing and energy capture and storage, are all areas of public interest and areas where major advancements will impact on quality of life. The upgraded high-field NMR Facilities will deliver underpinning analytical support for the development of a wide range of products, for example, biopharma-ceuticals, agrochemicals and new materials which can then be used to manufacture medicines, produce food and to manufacture consumer goods: all having potential societal impact.

Impact on Private and Public Sectors: Companies and those individuals working in the public and private business sectors are all potential beneficiaries of the research described in this proposal, which addresses important areas for the UK, including resource and sustainability issues within the chemicals and pharmaceutical industries, NHS and analytical instrument manufacturers and in identifying new targets for drug discovery. Previous experience has shown that major impact from analytical research is often made when new or improved measuring techniques with enhanced sensitivities are applied to previously inaccessible materials. The private sector will benefit from the specific outputs outlined in the application, through access to instrumentation, new methods, and the skills of trained analytical scientists who will move into areas of industry to influence and lead multidisciplinary collaborations.
Economic Impact: Through the proposed research, new materials, products and intellectual property will be developed in the longer term leading to increased sales and thus fostering the economic competitiveness of the UK. The UoN has well-established business development units that will allow us to manage interactions with private and public sector bodies, as well as with charities to maximise the impact of this research.

Scientific Knowledge and Technological Impact: Impact will be generated by using the latest and most advanced analytical NMR equipment to generate novel ideas and technologies which will then be published in academic journals for wider access, or patented for further development in the commercial sector. The application of the advanced capabilities of the upgraded instrumentation, now with extensive solid-state capabilities, will accelerate progress in key areas of research across a broad front, and at a range of different interfaces that have not been explored previously.

Measuring impact: We will measure the reach and significance and growth in impact from our extended user-base using the following metrics which will be derived from the UoN Research Information System: (i) Citations, collaborations, industrial partnerships as measured by standard scientific metrics such as SciVal; (ii) Media impact metrics are those gathered as a matter of routine by UoN and include reach, value, positive/ negative coverage, media type, source (international and national), press release impact, and (iii) follow-through and monitoring of all intellectual property, products in development, patents, and industrial involvement.


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Description High field NMR is a core technique that under pins multiple research areas.
The main project aims were to extend substantially (by > 10 years) the lifetime of the existing 800 MHz NMR and increase capability.
To support on-going internationally-leading and multi-disciplinary research and enhance the impact of the research and generate outputs in the highest quality peer reviewed journals.

Academically the facilities have supported the Schools of Chemistry, Pharmacy, Biosciences (including the Vet School and Food Sciences), Life Sciences, Engineering and Physics, with NMR applications ranging from developing new techniques and methodologies to study novel (bio)materials for use in healthcare and drug delivery, to nutritional content of food products. There are 16 publications that have resulted from access to the facility and multiple projects and grant applications that are ongoing.

Areas of impact have included: improving our understanding of Lipid trafficking and the effect of diet on offspring metabolism; work addressing protein interaction with platelets, an important system in cardiovascular disease; fundamental research into biochemical mechanisms of the ALS-associated autophagy receptor.

The facility is continuing to provide analytical support to projects that impact issues such as a better understanding of disease and prevention,
medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.
Exploitation Route The NMR facility represents a long term investment in state-of-the-art analytical equipment that under-pins multiple areas of research. The facility will continue to support the existing research community and will continue to engage with the UK NMR infrastructure. In addition to supporting the activities we have identified we will continue to reach out and support new projects.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description This grant funded a significant increase in capability and lifetime extension of the High-field 800 MHz NMR facility. These capabilities continue to support and facilitate research across a wide range of disciplines. It is envisaged the benefits to research will continue into the 2030s. The academic outputs have spanned multiple fields including; understanding key interactions in the leukocyte response in heart disease; resolving interactions between DNA binding proteins, that provide insights for potential future antibiotics; understanding receptor interactions in ALS associated disease processes; probing changes in cellular membranes and additionally looking at how this can be passed on to offspring; multiple studies looking at metabolite composition in different disease states and metabolite tracing with potential applications in bio-fuels. The facility continues to engage in research, and the improved capabilities such as the low mass sensitivity probes have provided insights into novel natural product identification and allowed access to protein-protein interaction studies that would have previously been inaccessible. We are looking forward to providing outputs in these areas in the future. Delays due to COVID pushed back the timing of a number of external collaborations, however in the two years following the grant, ongoing work has re-established these collaborations with a number of regional and national research institutions. With 4 new non-UoN projects starting in 2022/2023. The facility is providing access to specialist equipment and expertise and supporting UKRI and other funded projects outside of the University of Nottingham. The facility also supports SMEs and in some cases multinationals via our Business partnership unit. Research has taken place in a range of areas from drug discovery to food science. In addition to high-end analytical access the facility also engages in knowledge exchange providing the skills to industry to analyse and best use the data. Finally the facility has provide training and support to multiple DTP, CDT, PhD and post-doctoral researchers, providing invaluable training opportunities for researchers in using state-of-the-art research techniques.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic