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NIH Funds ASU's DNA Synbody Reagent Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Arizona State University has reeled in a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop methods for generating new reagents for use in protein studies.

Researchers at ASU's Biodesign Institute will use the grant to create a class of synthetic affinity reagents, called DNA synbodies, which can be used in studies of how proteins function and how they are involved in disease. The plan is to develop a pipeline to produce DNA synbodies for the entire human proteome.

DNA synbodies are created using an approach called LINC (ligand interactions by nucleotide conjugates), which "uses DNA as a programmable scaffold dotted with pairs of peptides around the helix," ASU said Monday.

"We construct these molecules in a single-pot reaction," ASU Professor and project leader John Chaput explained in a statement. "Our DNA synbodies are unique reagents that use a short DNA backbone to support a pair of specific peptides at defined spacing and angular rotation."

Chaput will partner on the project with Joshua LaBaer, the director of ASU's Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, which recently was awarded $6.5 million from NIH to expand its Protein Structure Initiative-Biology biorepository.

ASU said that the DNA synbody concept, which was developed by Chaput, will enable the development of affinity reagents that will compete "head-to-head" with traditional antibodies.

"The majority of the proteins encoded in our genes have functions that remain unknown. We are making synthetic, affinity reagents to allow for the global study of protein function and how this contributes to disease," Chaput explained.

"Creating a new class of reagents to recognize all of the proteins that are made in our bodies is the next grand challenge in molecular medicine," he added.