Controlling nucleic acid technologies
DNA and RNA are central to life and form the basis for many therapeutic and experimental technologies, including gene delivery, editing and silencing, vaccines, several aspects of nanotechnology, aptamers and their applications, and cell-free protein expression. It would be advantageous to control the function of these technologies, as this would greatly expand their application and reduce, potentially toxic, off-target effects. The main focus of our research is the generation of controllable nucleic acids under the control of various stimuli, including temperature, magnetism, enzymes, chemical signals, and multiple wavelengths of light. These controllable nucleic acids will be optimized to function with molecular machines, drug delivery, sensing, and siRNA and CRISPR technologies. In the future, this universal chemical method for controlling DNA and RNA structure and function may form the basis of controllable therapeutics and new technologies for basic research.
Synthetic cells for drug delivery to natural cells
Considerable research goes into the development of exciting new molecular tools and drugs; however, a large stumbling block can be how to effectively deliver these molecules into targeted cells. We aim to utilize synthetic cells, lipid-bounded compartments containing a cell-free protein expression system inside them, for controllable and targeted drug delivery. These synthetic cells will be able to deliver a large variety of molecules, from small molecule drugs to large biomacromolecules. Through both direct and in-direct mechanisms, these synthetic cells will have the ability to deliver their contents into natural cells. Control of delivery will be achieved with the compartmentalisation of controllable DNA within these synthetic cells.