Newswise — If the past 15 months have taught us anything about science, it’s that it is vital for researchers to work together to make progress on major challenges. Scientists from around the world will come together virtually to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a key piece of the infrastructure for sharing scientific knowledge: the Protein Data Bank (PDB). The event will be hosted by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology on May 4–5, 2021.

The PDB is the global archive for biological structures. From its inception, the PDB has embraced a culture of open access, leading to its widespread use by the research community and public alike. Millions of users access the PDB data exploring fundamental biology, energy and biomedicine.

Structural biology archived in the PDB opens windows into biology. Through their structures, scientists not only can understand how biological molecules work but can design many of our modern medicines.

Structural biology has been seminal in understanding how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and is the foundation of our understanding of protein folding. In fact, more structural biologists have been awarded Nobel Prizes than those in any other field.

In 1971, Helen Berman, a co-founder of the PDB and now a professor emerita at Rutgers University, and colleagues realized that the research community would benefit from sharing structural biology data. The PDB archive that they started has grown into a global database managed by the Worldwide Protein Data Bank consortium (wwPDB) of partner sites in Asia, Europe and America. 

“The PDB plays a seminal role in structure-based drug design, a mainstay of many of our current therapeutics… (and) has given rise to the entire field of structural bioinformatics,” Berman said.

Most scientific journals require deposition of structural biology data in the PDB prior to publication. The PDB data are readily accessible to scientists, educators and nonscientists alike.

Leading structural biologists at the meeting from Caltech, Stanford University, Tsinghua University, Harvard Medical School and many other institutions will celebrate the history of the PDB archive. They will also present their current research on topics ranging from SARS-CoV-2 replication, cancer therapies based on antibodies conjugated to small molecules, and immunity and antiviral drugs.

Thousands of scientists have contributed and access the PDB archive regularly. The Journal of Biological Chemistry recently released a special issue on this theme, scientific advances enabled by the PDB.

The importance of sharing structural biology data for systems biology, protein design and drug discovery will continue to open our world into the intricacies biology. 

Learn more about the upcoming meeting and review the agenda at