Styrene maleic acid-lipid particles (SMALPs) are nanodiscs made from the interaction of membrane bilayers and styrene-maleic acid (SMA) copolymer. SMA and other related amphipathic polymers can spontaneously solubilize membranes to form SMALPs.

Since there is no requirement for the conventional detergents that are typically used to solubilize membrane proteins, SMALP technology holds enormous potential as a biochemical and biophysical tool as it allows native membrane proteins to maintain their activity and structure.  Since SMALPs are also able to maintain the lipids of the membrane, SMALPs can advance the functional, biophysical and structural characterization of native membrane protein complexes. SMALPs can also impact drug delivery technology

The SMALP network is an international consortium of research scientists and industry, focusing on the advancement of SMALP technology, materials, and best practices. They recently sponsored their annual international conference on March 20. The plan was to meet in New York City, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the organizers arranged to conduct the meeting virtually using Zoom.

There were 18 speakers on the following topics:

• Using SMALPs to stabilize membrane proteins for biophysical and structural characterization (including Cryo-EM)
• Advances in polymer design
• Best practices in SMALP formation and analysis.

I gave a presentation on the use of Zetasizer, Omnisec, MicroCal ITC and MicroCal DSC to characterize SMALPS.

The SMALP network is planning web conferences on June 19 and September 18.  To get more information and to sign up for the SMALP network mailing list, register.