Dr Glenn Burley has been awarded one of only 8 coveted Advanced Research Fellowships in Chemistry worth £922,000, given annually by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The highly prestigious award will allow the Leicester research to use DNA, the molecule of inheritance, to help build tiny structures for use in technology processes and medicine.
Dr Burley said: “Astonishingly, strands of DNA can be programmed to self assemble into complex arrangements.
“DNA scaffolds made in this way could be used to hold molecule size electronic devices or be used to build materials with precise configurations.
‘By altering parts of their structure from one conformation to another, DNA can even be used as a machine’ says Dr Burley. ‘It’s amazing that nature’s hard drive can be so versatile. The real challenge now is to harness the potential of DNA in nanotechnology. If we can achieve this, then it will enable us to build devices much smaller than we can be achieved with today’s technology.”
Dr Burley said DNA nanotechnology combines chemistry, biochemistry and physics: “In the near future devices will contain DNA components alongside traditional electronic components. Other benefits of this technology include reduced cost of device construction and the potential for use in the early diagnosis of genetic diseases.
“We could use the technology to devise new methods of constructing DNA chips that can be used to predict whether a person will be predisposed to a particular disease.
Dr Burley who is now setting up his laboratory in Leicester, and who has in the past worked in Germany and Australia, collaborates with research groups within Leicester (Departments of Physics/Astronomy and Biochemistry) as well as maintaining links with collaborators in Germany (Walter Schottky Institute, http://www.wsi.tu-muenchen.de/E24/members/rant/) and Italy (University of Modena, http://www.s3.infm.it/). He is based in the Department of Chemistry, University of Leicester.
He added: “I’m thrilled to have been given this award that will allow me the time and resources to develop address how we will build tomorrow’s devices that will not impact heavily on the environment.
“It is feasible that by the end of this fellowship, we could be in a position to start thinking about a start up company. So the commercialization timeframe is in the region of five years.”
EPSRC Head of Chemistry John Baird said: "EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowships are designed to allow the recipient to pursue research of the very highest quality, free from normal academic duties. The combination of funding, which supports not just the Fellow's salary but also provides funding for a research project, is a very attractive package. This year, a total of 50 awards were made, of which 8 were in Chemistry."
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