The Bio21 Collaborative Crystallisation Centre was established through the co-ordinated activities of officials from two State Government Departments (Innovation and Health Services), five Melbourne biomedical research Institutes, the Bio21 Stategic Advisory Committee (which includes representatives of over 20 Research Institutions in Melbourne) and a team of scientists and technicians at CSIRO Molecular & Health Technologies Parkville.
The origins of the proposal came in 2004 when Colin Ward suggested that CSIRO initiate and co-ordinate a multi-Institute application to the Victorian Government, via Bio21, for funds to purchase equipment for protein crystallisation and data collection.
Colin Ward, Mike Lawrence and Neil McKern co-ordinated the involvement of the member Institutes, initiated the procurement of funds and equipment, oversaw the refurbishment of laboratories at CSIRO and recruited Dr Janet Newman to set up, run and further develop this unique centre. The equipment was to be housed at the partner institutes, with all partners having access to all equipment. The bulk of the equipment was to be held at the CSIRO Parkville site, with the partnership to extend for five years.
The first piece of equipment for Bio21 Collaborative Crystallisation Centre (Bio21 C3) was purchased and installed at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute early in 2005. The CSIRO node of the Bio21 C3 started operation in Q1, 2006, and was officially opened in July, 2006. The CSIRO node was the core of the facility, housing nano-dispensing and imaging technologies.
From the outset, the CSIRO node was strongly focused on providing both the partner institutes and Australia's broader structural biology community with access to state of the art crystallisation technologies, with a particular emphasis on making the service accessible, robust and user friendly. Initially, the mandate of the CSIRO node was to provide low-volume crystallisation screens, but this rapidly evolved to have a broader scope - providing both screening and optimisation services, as well as developing new methodologies in crystallisation, biophysical characterisation and informatics.
After the completion of the five year term, CSIRO made the commitment to continue to operate the service which it had been providing under the Bio21 banner as a stand-alone, full-service crystallisation facility – the CSIRO Collaborative Crystallisation Centre.