Breaking up DNA is a necessary step to prepare samples for next-generation genomic sequencing, say, saliva collected in tubes from people curious about their ancestry. But the DNA in the samples must first be broken up into very short, uniform segments, a feat that has proved hard. William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor and Interim Department Chair at the Joint BME department, Prof Dayton collaborated with Samantha Pattenden, an associate professor in UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, to miniaturize microbubbles into nanodroplets— five to seven times smaller and filled with a liquid core instead of a gas— that sheared DNA into short, uniform segments of a predictable length when exposed to high-energy sound waves.
Though the pair obtained two patents related to this technology and were interested in launching a company, they did not have the expertise. Then they received support through a new UNC- Chapel Hill program called the KickStart Accelerator, which supports faculty who have ideas with the potential for commercialization. They were connected to Joe McMahon, a businessman who became a co-founder and Triangle Biotechnology’s CEO. Today, the company’s main product is the nanodroplet reagent for biological samples, an innovation that simultaneously shreds 96 DNA samples in 10 minutes. Their biggest competitor takes two hours to process that number of samples.
The company’s chief technology officer, Sunny Kasoji, who was Dayton’s graduate student in 2018, says that their technology also costs less. “Nanodroplets eventually ended up having a large market for us. Once we started doing customer interviews, we realized there were so many applications for this apart from just shearing the DNA,” Kasoji said. Soon they were developing and marketing the nanodroplets to also break up tissues, bacteria and plants. Congratulations to Prof Dayton and his team! You can read the full article here.