6 December 2017

Touchlight receives grand funding for DNA templated nanowire inks project

Touchlight and Newcastle University – DNA templated compound semiconductor nanowires for low-cost pollution sensors and quantum dots

Touchlight and Newcastle University have been awarded grant funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to advance a commercial manufacturing process to produce ultra-thin compound semiconductor nanowires using a DNA template. The process produces nanowire ‘inks’ that can be printed for large scale manufacture. As proof of concept, these nanowires will be used in this project to form low-cost, electronic pollution sensors, and quantum dots.

Compound semiconductor nanowires (CSNs) have a number of useful properties and applications, due to their very thin structure (1000x thinner than hair). This collaboration focusses initially on two applications:

  • Gas sensing – the flow of small electric currents in a nanowire responds to the presence of chemicals, and as a result many gases of relevance to industrial processes, or healthcare (compounds in breath), or environmental pollutants (oxides of nitrogen, ozone) can be sensed using electronic nanowire-based devices.
  • Quantum dots/quantum-confined materials – quantum confinement allows for controllable photoluminescent properties (i.e. precise colour control). These quantum-confined materials can be used for a number of applications, such as optical barcodes and display screens.

A broader drive towards nano-scale miniaturisation of semiconductors across the electronics, computing and advanced materials industries opens up numerous opportunities for these products.

Despite their promise, these materials are very difficult and expensive to manufacture by current methods. The most widely employed route to nanowires is the VLS growth method, which is a highly complex and costly process using vacuum techniques. Preparation of quantum dots are also challenging, and uses highly toxic precursors.

Work at Newcastle University has shown that nanowires may be formed by reactions in water using DNA as a template on which to form a semiconductor (or other materials such metals or organic materials) as a very fine nanowire of thicknesses down to 10 nm or below (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 6649-6655). DNA is a long, thin, chemically robust molecule with numerous ion binding sites. These properties make it an excellent template for compound semiconductors, especially II-VI materials such as metal sulfides or oxides. As a result of being formed in water, these nanowires can be used as ‘inks’ and printed on a wide range of materials. “This is a low-tech route to high-tech materials”, says Professor Andrew Houlton, which will enable broader exploitation of CSNs.

Until recently, Newcastle’s approach to nanowire production was not commercially feasible because of the difficulty in obtaining DNA of high purity and sufficient length. Touchlight has overcome these constraints through enzymatic production of doggy-bone DNA™. Touchlight’s DNA is the ideal template as it is of therapeutic grade purity, scalable to the multi-kilogram scale, and allows complete user definition of sequence.

“We are revolutionising DNA,” says Jonny Ohlson, Touchlight Founder and CEO. “We were established on the conviction that DNA would underpin the next generation of medicine – 10 years on, our platform can produce DNA for advanced therapeutics in 1/10th of the time, in 1/10th of the space, and for 1/10th of the cost, compared with traditional DNA sources. We want to expand this platform into industrial applications where DNA holds great promise.”

For more information: info@touchlight.com

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About Touchlight

Touchlight is a privately-owned biotechnology company based in London, U.K., focussed on the discovery and development of DNA-based genetic medicines, including DNA vaccines and gene therapies. Touchlight has developed a novel, synthetic DNA vector known as “doggybone” or dbDNA™.

dbDNA™ is a minimal, linear, covalently closed structure, that eliminates bacterial sequences. Touchlight’s revolutionary enzymatic production platform enables unprecedented speed, scale, and the ability to target genes with a size and complexity that is impossible with current technologies.

Touchlight is applying dbDNA across advanced therapeutic modalities, both in-house and with partners. The company also provides contract manufacturing capabilities to produce dbDNA as a critical starting material for advanced therapy production through its manufacturing arm, Touchlight DNA Services.

Issued for and on behalf of Touchlight by Instinctif Partners.

For more information please contact:

Jonny Ohlson, CEO Tim Watson / Agnes Stephens /
Tommy Duncan, CBO Katie Duffell
E: info@touchlight.com E: touchlight@instinctif.com
T: +44 20 8481 9200 T: +44 20 7457 2020