Our interdisciplinary research efforts apply chemical tools to solve problems of biological and medical importance. The projects underway involve aspects of chemical biology, analytical chemistry, and nanotechnology and include:
Nanoscale sensors for the detection of disease biomarkers. Advances in genomic and proteomic methods now allow diagnosis of disease based on molecular profiling. The detection of a molecular analytes and use of this type of information for disease diagnosis requires methods with superior sensitivity and specificity, along with high-throughput. We are developing new analytical methods with these properties that will permit the direct readout of nucleic acid sequences and protein biomarkers. Nanomaterials play an important role in this effort, as detection sensitivity is greatly enhanced when measurements are performed at the nanoscale. Our aim is to generate sensors applicable to the diagnosis of cancer and other disease states.
Biotemplated quantum dots. Functionalized semiconductor quantum dots serve as powerful imaging agents within cells. Through their strong optical emissions, they illuminate tumors and other harbingers of disease. We are pursuing a new and improved class of semiconductor quantum dots that are built using nucleic acids as templating agents. We have shown that, by seeding the growth of our nanocrystals using a DNA and RNA templates, we are able to produce quantum dots that are efficient, stable, and non-toxic emitters.
Engineering the intracellular localization of synthetic molecules. Controlling the intracellular localization of synthetic molecules is essential for effective drug development. Nonetheless, rational control over intracellular trafficking of small molecules has remained a challenge. We use peptide-based conjugates in an effort to deduce rules for manipulating intracellular localization of bioactive molecules. These compounds also provide useful tools for the cellular delivery of chemically or biologically active species and can be used to study organelle-specific processes.