Nucleic Acid Aptamers

Aptamers are short single-stranded nucleic acid oligomers (DNA or RNA) capable of folding into highly organised, complex structures enabling ligation to molecular targets with high affinity. They can have sequence-dependent structures, characterized by stems, loops, bulges, hairpins, pseudoknots, triplexes, or quadruplexes.

These simple secondary structures can fold further to give complex tertiary structures, enabling aptamers to form complementary shapes wrapping around all or part of their target (small molecules) or to fit snugly into clefts and gaps within the surface of much larger targets.

This structural complementarity facilitates formation of electrostatic interactions or hydrogen bonds between the aptamer and its target, as well as stacking interactions between aromatic compounds and the nucleobases. This ability to fold into or around a target means that it is should be theoretically possible to select specific aptamers to almost any given target.

Aptamer Targets

Aptamers have been successfully raised to a diverse range of targets, including:

  • Inorganic and small organic molecules
  • Peptides & proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids
  • Complex targets – cells, viruses, microorganisms, tissue sections

Aptamers bind to other molecules with a higher degree of specificity and sensitivity than antibodies. Aptamers also have few of the drawbacks associated with antibodies, making them suitable replacements in many applications. The aptamers we develop are used in a variety of areas of life sciences research ranging from R&D consumables; such as, fluorescence microscopy &, flow cytometry probes through to purification (immunoprecipitation-like) reagents. We develop aptamers for use in clinical and non-clinical diagnostics and as candidate molecules for targeted therapeutics. We have also developed a first in-kind biomarker discovery process, which is set to breathe new life into the proteomics market. Our aptamers are currently being used in a variety of scenarios where antibodies have failed and are being expertly combined with microfluidics, electrochemical sensors and various nanotechnologies.

The manufacturing costs and development times for monoclonal antibodies are several times higher and several times longer than the corresponding aptamer-based solution. Low manufacturing costs and speed of delivery means aptamers can be used at some point along the drug discovery process to facilitate the development of diagnostics and treatments.