Chip-based protein analyses with electrically-manoeuvred DNA molecules

GO-Bio 4 – Dr. Ulrich Rant – Walter Schottky Institute, Center for Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials, Technical University of Munich | Dynamic Biosensors GmbH

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Recipient: Technical University of Munich
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.07.2011 - 30.06.2013, 2.162.657 Euro)

Recipient: Dynamic Biosensors GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (01.07.2013 - 30.09.2016, 3.448.481 Euro)


A central topic in biomedical research is the modes of interaction of different biomolecules. In the development of medical compounds, the focus is often on the interplay of proteins. Here, the key questions posed by protein analysts are: How strongly do two partners bind with one another, how quickly does this contact come about, and when do they separate? Binding studies such as these make use of surface biosensor systems. However, standard sensors do not enable conclusions to be drawn about the configuration of the binding partners. The switchSENSE technology developed by Ulrich Rant is hoping to change this.

The new approach is based on synthetically produced strands of DNA that are attached to an electrode like tiny hairs. If an alternating electric current is applied, the negatively charged DNA strands are alternately repelled from and attracted to the surface. The DNA fragments are labelled with dye molecules, enabling the visualisation of this up-and-down movement. In the form of a biochip, this switchable layer of DNA can be utilised for the measurement of molecular interactions. For example, the heads of the DNA strands can be coupled with a protein molecule for the analyses of protein-protein binding. If the appropriate molecule partner goes on to bind to this construction, the switching movement of the DNA strand slows down in a characteristic manner and thus provides the researchers with a kinetic fingerprint. A particularly important feature of the highly sensitive method of measurement is that, alongside binding behaviour, it is also possible to determine the size of the binding molecule.

During the first GO Bio funding phase, Rant and his team were able to optimize the switchSENSE technology for use in antibody research and develop the prototype for a measuring device.

In the second GO-Bio funding phase, which was carried out by Dynamic Biosensors GmbH, a company founded in 2012, the switchSENSE measuring method, which can be used in many ways, was consistently adapted to multi-parameter molecule analyses in high throughput.
Dynamic Biosensors GmbH has significantly expanded its product portfolio and established a worldwide distribution network following the discontinuation of GO-Bio funding.