Firm claims atom-thin carbon sheets will transform synthetic nanopore-based analysis.

U.K. firm Oxford Nanopore has negotiated exclusive rights to Harvard University’s graphene technology for applications in nucleic acid sequencing. The agreement covers the use of graphene for analyzing DNA and RNA, and builds on an existing nanopore sensing collaboration between the two organizations. Oxford Nanopore will also continue to support fundamental nanopore research at Harvard.

Graphene comprises a single atom-thick carbon honeycomb lattice that displays high electrical conductivity. Properties of the structure make it ideal for high-resolution, nanopore-based sequencing of single DNA molecules, Oxford Nanopore explains. Research published last year by the Harvard team and its collaborators demonstrated that graphene nanopores could be used as a trans-electrode to measure the electrical signal generated as single molecules of DNA were passed through the pore.

Oxford Nanopore maintains the technology could address the challenges associated with generating solid-state synthetic nanopores for nucleic acid sequencing. The “wonder material for the 21st century” has transformative potential, claims Gordon Sanghera, Ph.D., CEO at the U.K. company. “This groundbreaking research at Harvard lays the foundation for the development of a novel solid-state DNA sequencing device. Oxford Nanopore is probably best known for protein nanopores. However, today’s agreement highlights that we are increasing our investment in solid-state nanopores by adding graphene to our existing portfolio of solid-state nanopore projects and collaborations.”

Oxford Nanopore’s existing protein nanopore technology is being developed initially for nucleic acid applications including exonuclease sequencing and strand sequencing. The approach in essence detects the electrical signal generated by each base of nucleic acid as it passes through the nanopore.

The firm’s modular GridION platform technology includes an instrument reader and consumables based on a sensor chip containing multiple microwells. A lipid bilayer is formed over the surface of the well and the modified protein nanopores are introduced into the bilayers.  Each well represents a single addressable electronic channel and each nanopore is capable of individual identification of analyte molecules.  

While Oxford Nanopore’s initial development focus for the protein nanopore approach is in the field of nucleic acid sequencing, the firm claims that adapting the nanopore within the overall sensing platform means the technology can be used to detect proteins, small molecules, or polymers.

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