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Chad Mirkin, Ph.D.

Director of Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology, co-leader of Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science, professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, professor of chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Potential interview topics: Mirkin is available to speak to developments in bionanotechnology, such as the development of DNA nanotechnology particles and how nanotechnology can be used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool for oncology.

As a chemist and world renowned nanoscience expert, Chad Mirkin is known for his development of nanoparticle-based biodetection schemes, the invention of Dip-Pen Nanolithography and contributions to supramolecular chemistry.

Mirkin began his work in bionanotechnology by exploring the possibility of making strands of DNA and attaching them to particles, the product of which he calls a spherical nucleic acid (SNA). Shortly thereafter, he discovered how to color-metrically track DNA bonding, which allowed the scientific community to think about tracking disease based upon particles as probes that lock onto DNA and RNA fragments. Not one to take existing rules at face value, Mirkin turned the field of biology on its head when he dispelled the notion that DNA and RNA could never enter a cell because of their opposing negative electrical charges. Whereas the pre-existing method of DNA and RNA insertion was to trick the cell into accepting it by delivering it via a virus, Mirkin discovered that while cells reject linear DNA, they recognize the SNAs and accept them in.

Along with his colleagues at Northwestern University, Mirkin is pursuing the development of gene regulation technology, which would allow for the regulation of cell function with synthesized fragments of DNA and RNA incorporated into SNAs. Instead of having to search for a molecule or biologic, it would be possible to use a DNA or RNA code to create a targeted drug therapy. Mirkin anticipated three challenges in realizing this progress. The first was discovering how to make DNA and RNA, which has already been done at Northwestern University. The second and third are yet to come – understanding the pathways to influence a cell’s function and developing the methods by which to target drugs in the body.

Mirkin has become particularly invested in three pillars that he views as most important: medicine, environment and energy. He hopes to continue to develop chemistry, nanoscience and nanotechnologies that have impact across these three pillars.

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