Making life-saving vaccines and drugs one million times faster than today – and at a fraction of the cost – may soon be possible thanks to a new breakthrough made by scientists in Denmark.
We had to keep things hush-hush since we didn’t want to risk others publishing something similar before us.Nikos Hatzakis, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen.
When COVID hit, the race was on to develop vaccines as quickly as possible. Thankfully, science responded to the challenge at breakneck speeds – but with nanotech the process could be accelerated exponentially.
Using a technique that allows 40,000 potential molecules to be analysed and synthesised at the nanoscale, within a space smaller than a pinhead, it becomes possible to slash energy and material costs.
Explaining the method, researchers ask people to imagine soap-like bubbles as the nano-containers, where DNA nanotechnology is then used to test and mix multiple ingredients.
“The volumes are so small that the use of material can be compared to using one liter of water and one kilogram of material instead of the entire volumes of water in all oceans to test material corresponding to the entire mass of Mount Everest. This is an unprecedented save in effort, material, manpower, and energy,” explains head of the team Nikos Hatzakis, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen.
Results in minutes
The roll-off-the tongue solution called ‘single particle combinatorial lipidic nanocontainer fusion based on DNA mediated fusion’ has the handy abbreviation SPARCLD. And it was created through a collaboration between the Hatzakis Group, University of Copenhagen, and Associate Professor Stefan Vogel, University of Southern Denmark, with the support of a grant from the Villum Foundation Center of Excellence.
The innovation is the result of a multidisciplinary approach: where synthetic biochemistry, nanotechnology, DNA synthesis, combinational chemistry, and AI – all disciplines that are typically ‘quite distant’ from one another – worked together to produce a solution that generates results in seven minutes.
“What we have is very close to a live read-out. This means that one can moderate the setup continuously based on the readings adding significant additional value. We expect this to be a key factor for industry wanting to implement the solution,” added PhD Student Mette G. Malle, lead author of the article, and currently Postdoc researcher at Harvard University, USA.
The researchers believe industry and academic groups will now act quickly to adopt the technology.