Advanced biotechnology focus of new EU project
Understanding how a specific molecule behaves during complex biological processes is a challenge facing biomedical research, despite major biotechnological progress made in recent years. A major new EU project, iSenseDNA, is now focusing on developing a technology to identify what a change in the structure of a molecule could entail for its function.
“Previously, we have only had access to glimpses of molecules’ structure. It’s a little like using images of skiers to learn how to play hockey. Our project aims to create an opportunity to not only learn how to play hockey, but also to understand which muscles we need to train to become a better player,” explains Professor Lynn Kamerlin, who is coordinating the project together with project coordinator Antonietta Parracino.
The researchers in the iSenseDNA project want to develop technology that can connect changes in a biomolecule’s structure to its function during complex dynamic processes in real time. Technologies currently exist to help study how a certain molecule functions during a biological process, and there are technologies for studying the structure of molecules in detail. However, none has managed to connect structure to function on a large scale. This makes it difficult to predict which structural changes are needed to improve a drug, for example.
Researchers will combine computational and biotechnological methods as a tool for conducting advanced optical analysis of biomolecules in action. Together, they want to develop what is known as a nano-transducer, or a DNA-based sensor sensitive to structural changes and able to read them in real time.
“This multidisciplinary project establishes a collaboration between different countries on a technology that has the potential to extract otherwise well-hidden information about complex processes, which in the long term will contribute to progress within medical diagnostics and treatment,” adds Professor Kamerlin.
Researchers in the iSenseDNA project come from universities (Uppsala, Umeå and the University of Padova), research centres (CNR, BIO, DESY, ESRF) and companies (OrganoTherapeutics, OT) from across Europe (Sweden, Italy, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, France.) The project has a total budget of around EUR 3 million and is funded by the European Innovation Council as part of the EIC pathfinder Open Call.