Zohar Arnon’s PhD in Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University focused on the interface between physics, chemistry and biology, specifically the self-assembly process of various organic molecules, such as proteins, nucleic acids and amino acids.
For his postdoc, Dr. Arnon decided to leave his comfort zone, moving to the Department of Chemistry at New York University to work with world experts on DNA nanotechnology.
The group at NYU is working on DNA aptamers, short single-stranded oligonucleotide molecules, capable of binding a molecular target with high affinity and specificity. In fact, aptamer-integrated DNA nanocarriers have already been used to specifically kill cancer cells. But obtaining an aptamer that binds a specific molecular target can be challenging and tedious. Dr. Arnon and the team at NYU are developing a novel system to enable the detection and isolation of DNA aptamers for any desired molecule, similar to finding the correct lock (aptamer) for a specific and desired key (target). Due to their non-immunogenic and non-toxic properties, and the relative ease and low cost of their synthesis, Dr. Arnon believes that aptamers with improved molecular targeting ability are ideal candidates for developing biosensors and drug delivery agents, especially when. They could also prove useful for cancer therapy and when studying molecular systems such as Coronavirus.
Dr. Arnon comments, “The idea of being at the frontier of human knowledge, no matter how small of a niche you occupy, inspires me to come to the lab every day.”