Development of a new generation of biostable nucleic acid antibodies (aptamers), catalysts and nanostructures for precision biomedicine using synthetic genetic systems

Year of award: 2019


  • Dr Alexander Taylor

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

The nucleic acids DNA and RNA can form 3D structures, called ‘aptamers’ or chemical antibodies, capable of recognising other molecules and ribozymes/DNAzymes which orchestrate chemical reactions. In principle, these nucleic acids can be used to identify and combat cancerous cells or harmful bacteria and viruses. However, DNA and RNA are rapidly destroyed in the body or they can trigger problematic immune responses.

Xeno nucleic acids (XNAs) are DNA-replicating enzymes that have been engineered to be more robust and well-tolerated. In principle, nucleic acids can be made, shipped and stored more easily than protein-based medicines without using animals, which gives them significant advantages over current therapeutics.

I will develop XNA aptamers and XNAzymes to target molecules and cells associated with disease, and explore using them to precisely target tumours, deliver medicines and turn the immune system on or off in response to disease.