Leading facilities attract world's scientists

Zhangjiang innovation engine provides researchers with the best equipment to enable a number of breakthroughs.

Shot by Zhou Shengjie. Edited by Zhou Shengjie. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Andy Boreham.

Leading facilities attract world's scientists
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Nuclear magnetic resonance machines at the National Center for Protein Science Shanghai

Leading facilities attract world's scientists
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

A researcher conducts an experiment at a lab in Zhangjiang.

As the old Chinese saying goes, “sharp tools make good work.” To become a city at the forefront of innovation, Shanghai needs the foremost infrastructure facilities.

Currently, 14 nation-level major science facilities have been built or are being built in the city. They are set to be completed by the end of 2025, attracting scientists from around the world to engage in cutting-edge studies in Shanghai.

Many of the facilities are in the city’s major innovation engine of Zhangjiang in the Pudong New Area.

Ten years ago, the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, known as the “Shanghai light source,” became the first nation-level major science facility in Zhangjiang.

The second was the National Center for Protein Science Shanghai, the world’s first comprehensive protein research facility. With the total investment of 756 million yuan (US$110 million), it started trial operation in 2014 and passed national evaluation to officially open in 2015.

The light facility, acting like a super X-ray machine and super microscope, allows researchers to discern the structure of even an atom. The protein facility especially carries out nuclear magnetic resonance tests on proteins.

“Protein is nearly 10,000 times smaller than a single hair,” said Liu Zhijun, technology director of the facility's nuclear magnetic resonance system. “We have five machines to conduct nuclear magnetic resonance tests on proteins to discern what they look like.”

One of the five machines has magnetic fields at 900 MHz, and it is in the top two in China, second to one at 950 MHz in Beijing. However, its output tops the country. Across the world, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States have machines at 1,000 MHz, Liu said.

On average, the five machines are used by 30 research teams, including some overseas teams.

From 2015 to 2018, the facility has served more than 290 companies and research institutes at home and abroad for about 467,000 hours. Overseas users are from Japan, Spain, France, Britain, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States.

The facility has greatly improved China’s protein research. A number of great scientific breakthroughs have been made, including insights into the fatal Ebola virus and possible new approaches to treat cancer.

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