Do Nanorobots Have a Role in Medicine?

Iowa State University
Webster City, Iowa
Open Access
Raised of $7,500 Goal
Ended on 11/01/14
Campaign Ended
  • $476
  • 7%
  • Finished
    on 11/01/14

About This Project

Our bodies are full of molecular nanorobots that create and sustain life. Now we can design and manufacture nanorobots made out of DNA using the same rules that produce the double helix. For a few pennies we manufacture billions of disease detecting DNA nanorobots in a drop of salt water. This new technology can be coupled to smart devices to diagnose disease in resource poor environments and provide point of care emergency medical service.

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What is the context of this research?

Detecting molecules is the foundation of diagnosing disease. With the advent of DNA nanotechnology is now possible to design in silico and then produce in a test tube “nanorobots” that are autonomous functional machines with dimensions 1/700th the diameter of a human hair.

DNA is extremely chemically malleable and inherently programmable (after all, it carries the code that creates life) so a vast spectrum of DNA nanorobots can be created.

The nanorobot we have developed has user controlled moving parts and a built in "flashlight" to tell us if the biomarkers we are looking for are present or absent.

The next step is to begin to create DNA nanorobots targeted to specific diseases. This technology will be integrated with a smart-device reader for instant global telecommunication.

What is the significance of this project?

The current ebola outbreak highlights the criticality of simple, sensitive and inexpensive methods for early detection. The technology we are developing can be readily adapted to detect ebola or any other viral genome, viral and bacterial proteins, and virtually any biomarker.

Since DNA is extraordinarily inexpensive to produce and easy to modify for detecting specific biomarkers we feel that this is a biosensor paradigm that must be evaluated for real world use.

Be it an ebola outbreak in West Africa or an infant in the local ER with a 106° temperature and possible viral or bacterial meningitis, the ability to rapidly detect and identify a pathogen-related biomarker, and instantly communicate that information, is of the utmost relevance and importance for optimal medical practice.

What are the goals of the project?

Our project is about 4-years old and thus far has been funded out of pocket and by one Phase I grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

We have completed the “proof of principle” studies to show that the nanorobot works and we are now at the stage of development wherein we begin to refine the design to improve function and expand applicability to a range of biomarkers including nucleic acids, proteins, and small molecules.

We have a new base design with enhanced stability and improved molecular mechanics. With the funding received from this request we will demonstrate that the current nanorobot can detect nucleic acids for ebola and other viral genomes.


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This paradigm-shifting project is very “high risk-high reward” and not the type of project that is typically funded by conventional resources (e.g., NIH, NSF).

We have made excellent progress on very little money, much of it a personal investment by the researchers involved in this project. We are now at the critical technology development chasm that exists between exhaustion of personal resources and compilation of sufficient compelling data to overcome the skepticism that represents a nearly impenetrable barrier to institutional research funding.

We believe that with the funding requested through this crowd-funding resource we will be able to generate an incontrovertible argument for further development of nanorobot technology and be able to acquire the funding necessary to move forward rapidly and translate this technology from the laboratory to the real world.

Meet the Team

Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson
Divita Mathur
Divita Mathur

Team Bio

Born and raised in Los Angeles, transplanted to the Midwest by way of Berkeley and still loving the elbowroom!

I am the proud father of four children and one grandchild (thus far) and remain relatively sane by playing guitar every day (funk, R&B, pop, AC, call me!), hitting the gym, and writing genre fiction.

My approach to science is unorthodox but not without its rewards. I enjoy testing new, even controversial ideas and developing technology that becomes useful in what I call the “real world” (i.e., that other place, you know, outside the lab: ).

I’ve started several companies and my current focus is Creodyne, llc (est. 2009). My model for translational science (and this is backed up by my mentors who are very successful at both science and business) is that if you want it done you have to do it yourself. Thus, I have happily and transparently tread at the interface of academic research and biotech industry for 20 years.

Eric Henderson

My name is Eric Henderson. I am a scientist and inventor with a new technology for detecting things like viruses (like Ebola, for example), DNA, proteins and other "biomarkers" in the first step toward identifying and curing disease. We do this with a nanomachine made out of DNA, seriously. Instead of using the genetic code to create genes and gene products, we use the genetic code as an “engineering code” to create little devices that are autonomous and self-assemble just by mixing the right pieces together. This process is supering cheap, about eight cents per 20 billion machines, and as simple as “just add salt water and heat then cool” and voila – billions of little automatons ready to do your bidding! This is perfect for all kinds of situations including third world countries, impoverished or resource poor environments and point of care emergency medical service.

I've started a few companies and have learned the invaluable skill of treading in the often immiscible lands of academia and industry. My current startup is called Creodyne, llc and I plan on using that vehicle for this project because experience has taught me that moving technology from academia into the real world can be accomplished MUCH more efficiently when one "does it him/her self". The intellectual property (IP) associated with this project is owned by me (and, therefore, Creodyne) and I established that arrangement overtly to avoid entanglements with my beloved employer, Iowa State University. All of this is 100% transparent and reviewed annually by ISU. No worries : )

Lastly, in my spare time ( ha ha ha ha) I write novels and music, and enjoy as much as humanly possible being a father to my amazing children! I believe strongly in the "pay it forward" karmic view of life and I am always happy to discuss with anyone ideas about making the world a better place.

Divita Mathur

I think there's a whole world out there, you know, at the nanoscale. A wise man said, just because we couldn't see it all this time doesn't mean we just invented it! We can learn a thing or two from natural nanomachines that keep us running so well (enzymes and genes and proteins and all those little molecules that are more sure of their lives than we are of anything!) and make some of our own! And the best part is the most malleable and programmable building material given to us - DNA!

So I am a nanoengineer and I have to refrigerate all my power tools.

I am also a graduate student at Iowa State University in Bioinformatics. But in truth I am an interdisciplinary researcher.

Press and Media

Here is a press release about acquisition of the intellectual property related to our nanobot project - we own it! Awesome!

Additional Information

The picture below shows the second generation of our nanorobot (we are working on generation three now). The platform can be induced to move and tug on user-defined molecular pairs. This ability to interrogate the binding between molecules on the nanorobot is the foundation of its use as a diagnostic platform, but also creates a whole new approach to measuring interactions between molecules, a process that is central to diagnostics, therapeutics (drug discovery), and basic biophysical science.

Project Backers

  • 14Backers
  • 7%Funded
  • $476Total Donations
  • $34.00Average Donation
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