Fourth Industrial Revolution

DNA libraries could help us find new drugs

A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute to Reuters on May 15, 2012.     REUTERS/National Human Genome Research Institute/Handout (CANADA - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR32460

New technology can capture and clone thousands of long DNA fragments at once. Image: REUTERS/National Human Genome Research Institute

Todd Bates
Science Communicator, Rutgers University
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Biotechnology is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Biotechnology

A new technology can clone thousands of genes at once and compile libraries of proteins from DNA samples, potentially speeding up the search for new drugs.

Discovering the function of a gene requires cloning a DNA sequence and expressing it. Until now, this was performed on a one-gene-at-a-time basis, causing a bottleneck.

“We think that the rapid, affordable, and high-throughput cloning of proteins and other genetic elements will greatly accelerate biological research to discover functions of molecules encoded by genomes and match the pace at which new genome sequencing data is coming out,” says Biju Parekkadan, an associate professor in the biomedical engineering Department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

In a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the researchers show that their technology—LASSO (long-adapter single-strand oligonucleotide) probes—can capture and clone thousands of long DNA fragments at once.

As a proof-of-concept, the researchers cloned more than 3,000 DNA fragments from E. coli bacteria, commonly used as a model organism with a catalogued genome sequence available.

“We captured about 95 percent of the gene targets we set out to capture, many of which were very large in DNA length, which has been challenging in the past,” Parekkadan says. “I think there will certainly be more improvements over time.”

They can now take a genome sequence (or many of them) and make a protein library for screening with unprecedented speed, cost-effectiveness, and precision, allowing rapid discovery of potentially beneficial biomolecules from a genome.

In conducting their research, they coincidentally solved a longstanding problem in the genome sequencing field.

When it comes to genetic sequencing of individual genomes, today’s gold standard is to sequence small pieces of DNA one by one and overlay them to map out the full genome code. But short reads can be hard to interpret during the overlaying process and there hasn’t been a way to sequence long fragments of DNA in a targeted and more efficient way.

LASSO probes can do just this, capturing DNA targets of more than 1,000 base pairs in length where the current format captures about 100 base pairs.

The team also reported the capture and cloning of the first protein library, or suite of proteins, from a human microbiome sample. Shedding light on the human microbiome at a molecular level is a first step toward improving precision medicine efforts that affect the microbial communities that colonize our gut, skin, and lungs, Parekkadan adds. Precision medicine requires a deep and functional understanding, at a molecular level, of the drivers of healthy and disease-forming microbiota.

Today, the pharmaceutical industry screens synthetic chemical libraries of thousands of molecules to find one that may have a medicinal effect, says Parekkadan.

“Our vision is to apply the same approach but rapidly screen non-synthetic, biological, or ‘natural’ molecules cloned from human or other genomes, including those of plants, animals, and microbes,” he says. “This could transform pharmaceutical drug discovery into biopharmaceutical drug discovery with much more effort.”

The next phase, which is underway, is to improve the cloning process, build libraries, and discover therapeutic proteins found in our genomes, Parekkadan says.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionHealth and Healthcare Systems
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

IDEA: Investing in the Digital Economy of Azerbaijan

Sara Al Hudaithy and Anu Devi

June 4, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum