New DNA tool could speed up vaccine development a million times

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The quest for pharmaceutical agents, such as new vaccines, leads industries to routinely analyze thousands of related candidate molecules. What if this process could take place at the nanometric scale? Such a breakthrough would significantly reduce the use of materials and energy.

A new tool developed in Denmark can synthesize and analyze more than 40,000 different molecules in an area smaller than a pinhead, according to a Press statement published by the University of Southern Denmark (SDU). The method, which works by using soap-like bubbles as nano-containers, is intended to significantly reduce material, energy and economic costs for pharmaceutical companies by enabling them to speed up their processes by more than a million times.

DNA barcodes

“The technology uses DNA barcodes similar to barcodes found on all consumer products to track the identity of all compounds, reagents and chemical reactions performed in parallel in thousands of ultra-small nanoreactors,” said Stefan Vogel, SDU team leader, associate professor. in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy.

Team leader Nikos Hatzakis, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, further compared the reduction in resources to using one liter of water and one kilogram of material instead of all the water volumes of all the oceans to test the material corresponding to the total mass of Mount Everest.

A joint multidisciplinary effort

This breakthrough is a joint effort that required advances in synthetic biochemistry, nanotechnology, DNA synthesis, combinatorial chemistry, and even machine learning. The project resulted in the opening of a new frontier in miniaturized chemistry and biochemistry.

“No element of our solution is completely new, but they have never been combined so seamlessly,” continued Nikos Hatzakis.

The researchers speculate that industrial and academic groups involved in the synthesis of long molecules such as polymers could be among the first to adopt the method. The method can also be further integrated, allowing the direct addition of a relevant application.

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