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De novo design of protein architectures not found in biology

Foresight Update 29.02—February 25, 2016
ISSN 1078-9731

Nanotech News

Discuss these news stories at

In this issue:

DNA nanotechnology provides new ways to arrange nanoparticles into crystal lattices

Several years ago we pointed to work from the collaboration of two Foresight Feynman Prize winners (Chad A. Mirkin, 2002, Experimental and George C. Schatz, 2008, Theoretical) that advanced the concept of using DNA to link together nanoparticles in specific 3D configurations: “Using DNA as bonds to build new materials from nanoparticles”. A news article written by Robert F. Service in a recent issue of Science “DNA makes lifeless materials shapeshift” describes another major advance from Mirkin’s group, taking their 2011 advance to the next level …

The same issue of Science features another approach to engineering superlattices using DNA nanotechnology …

Improving crystallographic resolution through using less perfect crystals

Sometimes atomic resolution imaging can be a big help in understanding how molecular machinery works. A news release from the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University suggests that this may become easier to do …

DNA nanotechnology cages localize and optimize enzymatic reactions

About 7 years ago we pointed to two research reports as “evidence of the growing capability of DNA scaffolds to support complex and interactive functions” (Advancing nanotechnology by organizing functional components on addressable DNA scaffolds). One of the research groups featured in that post has just published another paper using DNA cages to hold enzymes and their substrates in the proper position to make reactions more efficient. …

Roles of materials research and polymer chemistry in developing nanotechnology

A review written by a group at the National Institute for Materials Science, Ibaraki, Japan, and published in’s Polymer Journal introduces the concept of “nanoarchitectonics” and explores why nanotechnology is not just an extension of microtechnology “What are the emerging concepts and challenges in NANO? Nanoarchitectonics, hand-operating nanotechnology and mechanobiology” …

Multiple advances in de novo protein design and prediction

Concluding our brief update on Eric Drexler’s 1981 proposal that de novo protein design provides a path from biotechnology to general capabilities for molecular manipulation, we return to this University of Washington news release “Big moves in protein structure prediction and design” …

Rational design of protein architectures not found in nature

Continuing our coverage of several major advances in de novo protein design recently reported by the research group of David A. Baker with a consideration of the second of the two research papers they published two months ago in Nature: “Rational design of alpha-helical tandem repeat proteins with closed architecture” … which concerns the rational design of a class of proteins that play important roles in binding macromolecules, as scaffolds, and as building blocks for assembling more complex materials …

De novo protein design space extends far beyond biology

In his first (1981) publication on what he later (1986) termed nanotechnology Eric Drexler pointed to molecular engineering as a pathway from current biotechnology toward “general capabilities for molecular manipulation”, more recently described as “high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing”. Specifically, he pointed to de novo protein design as a path leading eventually to complex non-biological machinery, suggesting that designing proteins to fold as needed will be easier than predicting how natural proteins will fold. Accordingly de novo protein design has been one of our favorite topics on Nanodot …

This past year, several major advances in de novo protein design have been reported by the research group of David A. Baker, who shared the 2004 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology in the Theory category, at the University of Washington, and their collaborators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute. …

Foresight advisor MIT Prof. Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)

“We are greatly saddened to hear of the death of Marvin Minsky, age 88. A pioneer in artificial intelligence, Marvin served as an Advisor to Foresight Institute from its earliest days, extending back to our predecessor organization, the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group. He wrote the Foreword to the first nanotechnology book, Engines of Creation, and was the dissertation advisor for the first-ever PhD in Molecular Nanotechnology, granted by MIT to K. Eric Drexler. Marvin’s genius and humor are well-known, and his insights will be immensely missed.”
—Christine Peterson, co-founder Foresight Institute

—Nanodot posts by James Lewis

Foresight Events and News

White papers now available from Foresight’s workshops

Directed/Programmable Matter for Energy, Sept. 5-7, 2014 Video
White paper: Directed Programmable Matter for Energy Applications: Insights, analysis and implications for society

Atomic Precision for Medical Applications, May 29-31, 2015 Video
White paper: Foresight Institute's Workshop On Atomic Precision For Medical Applications

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