EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S003339/1
Title: Exploration of Linking Chemistry in the Design of Aptamer-Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Hybrids (aptaMIPs)
Principal Investigator: Turner, Professor NW
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Aptamer Group UMass Chan Medical School University of Leicester
Department: School of Pharmacy
Organisation: De Montfort University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 31 March 2022 Value (£): 296,003
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biophysics Chemical Biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Mar 2019 EPSRC Physical Sciences - March 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Molecular imprinting involves making a binding pocket in a polymer which is chemically and shape specific for the target compound. These "smart plastics" offer robustness compared to biological molecular recognition elements such as antibodies and enzymes. They also have the ability to work in extreme environmental conditions. However, they can sometimes lack the necessary specificity/affinity.

Aptamers are small pieces of DNA/RNA that have the ability to target proteins and small molecules and bind to them with high specificity and affinity. They are not toxic and are attractive alternatives to antibodies. They have been used primarily in research due to their susceptibility to enzymatic and chemical degradation, though this is slowly changing and they are becoming commercially relevant. The global aptamers market is projected to reach $2.4 billion by 2020, up from $1.1 billion in 2015.

A 12-month proof-of-concept study, supported by the EPSRC and led by the PI (a molecular imprinting specialist), created novel hybrid materials made by incorporating aptamers into molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs). In simple terms, the aptamer structure is modified to allow it to be directly incorporated into a polymer, so it will hold its shape while being protected from environmental conditions. Novel, high affinity and stable materials were created.

These "aptaMIPs" demonstrated exceptional molecular recognition and offer significant improvements on both MIPs and aptamers in terms of stability, and specific target recognition, effectively maintaining the best properties of both classes of materials.

This proposal seeks to explore the potential of aptaMIPs through a two year study into the core chemistry used to create these novel materials. We will build on the results of the pilot study and create useful, effective materials with high commercial potential.

The research in this proposal will focus on:

(i) Identifying the right linker chemistry;

(ii) Developing polymerisable modifications for all four bases;

(iii) Identifying how many linkers are needed;

(iv) Identifying the best position for these linkers.

An in-depth study on these four points will enable a full understanding of the key chemistry of how the aptamer incorporates itself into the polymer and, through this, allow us to understand what makes a good aptaMIP and why. Alongside these the synthetic strategies used will be analysed to ensure the creation of these hybrids is simple and effective.

Two targets have been selected to study these chemistries. These differ in size and application: a protein and a bioactive drug, but both targets have significant commercial potential. Through these model systems we aim to demonstrate the validity and potential of aptaMIP materials.

Alongside the PI, two project partners form the research team:

The Watts group were collaborators on the pilot study and are based at the University of Massachusetts RNA Therapeutics Institute (a world leading school in novel aptamer synthesis). They will support the proposal through access to state-of-the-art synthesis equipment, combined with know-how in oligomer synthesis and application.

Aptamer Group are a commercial aptamer development company based in York. Their expertise will benefit the project by providing the known oligomer sequences which will act as the basis for our studies and access to specialised instrumentation. The impact of the project will be supported by their detailed knowledge of the aptamer field and commercial outlook.

The experience of the whole team will allow this interdisciplinary proposal, covering the fields of polymer, nucleic acid, protein and analytical chemistries to succeed. We will take aptaMIPs from the existing proof-of-concept stage and develop them, and their synthetic process, into viable competitors in artificial molecular recognition, ready for application in systems where their functionality can be exploited.

Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.dmu.ac.uk