2015 Beckman Symposium   

Chad Mirkin, PhD

Presentation Date:

Chad Mirkin, PhD

The Nature of the DNA Bond

Northwestern University

Chemistry and International Institute for Nanotechnology



For decades the biological roles of nucleic acids as catalytic enzymes, intracellular regulatory molecules, and as the carriers of genetic information have been studied extensively. More recently, the sequence-specific binding properties of DNA that make it so ubiquitous among all living systems have been hijacked to direct the assembly of materials at the nanoscale. In such cases, it has become useful to consider the DNA as an artificial bond that facilitates nearly infinite tailorability in the interactions between nanomaterials via bond (i.e. oligonucleotide) length, strength, orthogonality, and even directionality. Although this powerful concept can be applied in variety of contexts including DNA tiles, origami scaffolds, and supramolecular constructs, here we explore the use of rigid inorganic nanoparticles functionalized with DNA that act to orient oligonucleotides perpendicular to their surfaces to dictate DNA bonding interactions. By elucidating a series of design rules for the nature of these DNA bonds, we show the construction of nanoparticle superlattices with over 20 different crystal symmetries with precise control over particle size and spacing. In some cases, these materials can be prepared so that they form large single crystalline domains with a well-defined crystal habit indicative of the minimum energy Wulff polyhedron of the parent superlattice. Finally, we show opportunities for dynamic and reconfigurable superlattices facilitated by the unique properties of the DNA bond.  


Dr. Chad A. Mirkin is the Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology, the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, and Professor of Medicine.  He is a chemist and a world renowned nanoscience expert, who has authored over 565 manuscripts, and inventor on over 930 patent applications worldwide (246 issued).  Dr. Mirkin has been recognized for his accomplishments with over 90 national and international awards.  These include the Linus Pauling Medal, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, an Honorary Degree from Nanyang Technological Univ. Singapore, the Lee Kuan Yew Distinguished Visitor to Singapore, and the ACS Award for Creative Invention.  He is a Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST, Obama Administration), and one of only 15 scientists, engineers, and medical doctors to be elected to all three US National Academies (the Institute of Medicine, the Natl. Academy of Sciences, and the Natl. Academy of Engineering).  He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the founding editor of the journal Small and the founder of three companies, Nanosphere, Inc.,  AuraSense, LLC, and AuraSense Therapeutics, LLC. Dr. Mirkin holds a B.S. degree from Dickinson College and a Ph.D. degree from Penn State. He was an NSF Postdoc at MIT prior to becoming a Professor at Northwestern in 1991.

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