INSTRUCT Workshop on Nanobodies for Structural Biology and beyond


The first Nanobodies4Instruct practical training course will take place in Brussels from 9 to 19 September. The workshop will be hosted by the Steyaertlab. A flyer describing this workshop can be downloaded here.

Concept of the Training course

The workshop is devoted to the hands on discovery of Nanobodies and its applications in structural Biology. 12 (selected) researchers from INSTRUCT member countries can contribute their own pet protein and select their own Nanobodies to be used in their future research. In parallel, the students will be trained in applying such antibodies in X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM. New developments in the field will also be described.

In practice, each trainee will have the opportunity to send his/her pet protein to Brussels 4 months prior to the course (deadline May 31) for immunization. Immunizations will be completed upfront allowing all participants to perform selections on their own proteins, starting from validated immune libraries. During the course, trainees will use their own protein samples to discover the most useful Nanobodies for solving the structure of their target. For practical reasons, we will limit the number of antigens to about six resulting in six discovery projects to be run in parallel in small teams. Some of the discovery programs will make use of phage display, others will exploit yeast display. Flipped classroom will be the preferred instructional strategy to introduce the antigens/targets, to plan experiments and report on the results on a daily basis. After the course, trainees have the freedom to use the Nanobodies they selected for their own research.

Venue: VIB-VUB center for Structural Biology

The VIB-VUB center for Structural Biology (CSB) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is a center of excellence in structural biology that is recognized worldwide for its scientific work, for the technologies it develops and for the spin-offs it creates. CSB is an integrated center that supports the major methodologies for structural biology (biophysics, NMR, X-ray and cryo-EM) complemented with unique and differentiating platforms including Nanobody technology. The center also hosts the Nanobody4Instruct facility.

Brussels is the thriving center of Europe, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is in the heart of it. Brussels is home to the European Commission, Parliament and NATO, a buzzing, influential city where history is made. The city is a key European commercial hub too, a base for many progressive international companies. But more than that, Brussels is a compact city, friendly, positive, cosmopolitan, and easy to get around. Eating out plays a significant part in Belgian life. Along with the celebrated local cuisine, there are restaurants representing every corner of the globe. Nightlife is lively, with plenty of concerts, bars and clubs, theatre and dance. Something for everyone.


Students will be housed in U-residence on the campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels and at walking distance of the research labs of CSB. Restaurants, bars and sport accommodations are available on campus.

Getting there

Air: Brussels International Airport is only 30 minutes away from our labs.

Rail: CSB is connected by train to Brussels Midi station, with national and international high-speed connections to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Köln etc.

Associated activities

This workshop will preceeds the International VIB Conference ‘Structural Dynamics in Cellular Communication’, which will take place September 20-21, at the Royal Academy of Sciences in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. We will negotiate a special rate for participants of the workshop to attend the meeting. 


The workshop is particularly targeted for PhD students or postdocs having projects aimed at 3D structure determination using X-ray crystallography or cryo-EM, working at institutes of Instruct-ERIC countries. Trainees are encouraged to sent proteins in advance. There is no registration fee and we aim to cover also the accommodation costs and meals of the students. Application for the course can be submitted from now on till 28.02.2018 to Maia De Kerpel. The application should include:

  • a cv
  • a motivation letter [1 page maximum]
  • an abstract of the project that on which you would like to generate Nanobodies [1 page maximum]
  • a letter of recommendation from your supervisor

The motivation letter should include information on your pet protein to potentially be used for immunization and Nanobody discovery during the workshop. We will decide and inform each applicant as soon as possible. Subsequently we will communicate concerning sample preparations and shipment. We will also ask you to prepare two powerpoint slides, introducing your lab (title slide) and your project (second slide) to be used for a brief introduction at the beginning of the workshop.


Our lab offers INSTRUCT users access to its Nanobodies4Instruct platform to generate Nanobodies that facilitate the structural investigation of proteins that are recalcitrant to purification and crystallization. We will also identify Nanobodies that stabilize unique functional conformations of those proteins. Future innovative applications of Nanobodies in in situ fluorescence imaging, mass spectrometry, NMR, X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and tomography, X-ray imaging or other relevant biophysical methods will be explored in an integrated fashion within the most multidisciplinairy projects selected by the INSTRUCT framework. 

INSTRUCT is a pan-European Research Infrastructure providing expertise and access to high quality instruments for structural cell biology researchers. Access is free at Instruct Centres and support for travel, accommodation and consumables may be available. Find more info on the INSTRUCT website and apply for sponsored access to our platform through INSTRUCT. Nanobodies4Instruct is supported for the Flemish Participation in ESFRI by the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders