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Biochemist Jeremy Lee and his former post-doctoral fellow Palok Aich at the University of Saskatchewan discovered a new DNA molecule, M-DNA, which conducts electricity. The first patent on the discovery was filed in 1997, and five years later Adnavance was formed with the help of University Medical Discoveries Inc. (UMDI), a Toronto-based technology development company focusing on early-stage medical and life science research, to market the new technology. The letter “M” in M-DNA stands for “metal-containing.” M-DNA is a marriage of molecular biology and electronics: conducting metal ions such as zinc, cobalt or nickel are inserted into the centre of the DNA helix, creating an effective semi-conductor that is only one molecule - roughly two nanometres - thick. Since DNA has the natural ability to self-assemble, M-DNA is in effect a self-assembling molecular wire that could become the building block for nanometre-scale bio-electric circuits; these tiny, speedier circuits could replace the smallest of silicon microchips that drive the world's information technology. M-DNA could also pave the way for highly sensitive new biosensors that help reduce adverse drug reactions, improve diagnosis of disease, predict the outcome of disease, and reduce the cost of drug development. In addition to medicine, M-DNA has possible applications in areas such as environmental monitoring, security, and national defense.

Joe Ralko

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