Manchester Centre for Biophysics and Catalysis (MCBC)

For the Public

Understanding how life works and using this knowledge to our advantage is the basis of our success as an intelligent species. A sustainable society is achieved through advances in basic knowledge and technology. The science of biology is evolving at an unprecedented pace. This involves expanding our traditional understanding of the single organism to the molecular basis of life as well as the workings of the entire biosphere.

MCBC is focused at the molecular end of this spectrum. We seek to acquire knowledge relating to the mechanism of individual biological components and how these interact in biological systems/living organisms. This knowledge is used to define new routes in biomanufacture, bioenergy, environmental sustainability and human health. The Centre is therefore driving molecular understanding that underpins sustainability by contributing to technology development in variety of key areas.

Students explore BORIS - a 6ft tall model protein molecule.
Students explore BORIS - a 6ft tall model protein molecule.

Case study

Medicinal drug design

Professor Jason Micklefield and Dr Steven Rossington were awarded a BBSRC 2008 Public Engagement Award. The project worked with students in Key Stages 3-5 throughout the UK promoting aspects of biology and chemistry and highlighting the complexities of medicinal drug design.

A purpose built (6ft tall!) protein molecule named BORIS and more conventional molecular modelling were used to introduce the idea that certain drugs only fit into specific shapes of a host protein (or enzyme). This conceptual idea was then expanded to include the design of anti-cancer drugs.

Throughout 2008 this activity engaged with students in cities such as London, Manchester and York and interacted with over 1300 students.