The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded its first-ever multidisciplinary research grant to researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to develop “ultradense” oligonucleotide arrays, in collaboration with Xanthon, a North Carol -ina microarray startup.
Michael Pirrung, a chemistry professor at Duke, and Holden Thorp, a chemistry professor at UNC Chapel Hill, will direct research under the grant.
Pirrung and Thorp have been developing electrochemical detection methods for arrays that could enable the arrays to include up to 10 million electrodes per square centimeter.
“With high density arrays, there are now feature size limits on how small a spot one could detect a signal from,” said Pirrung. “If you want to have valid data points on an array with sub-micron features, it would be almost impossible to detect at that level” with chemiluminescent detection methods. “Very small electrodes and electrochemical detection techniques can detect tiny features,” he said.
As a condition of receiving the grant, Pirrung and Holden had to show that the technology could be commercialized feasibly, according to Pirrung. One criticism that reviewers had was the surface chemistry on the arrays. The model in the grant proposal involved gold and sulfur binding chemistry, and critics raised questions about the stability of this bond. But since then, the researchers have gone back to the drawing board and developed chemistries that they knew were more stable.
Xanthon plans to refine methods to manufacture these arrays on a large-scale basis — MMJ