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Illustration of red blood cells with cancer cells.
Illustration of red blood cells with cancer cells.

“Killing Disease and Living Longer” Biotech Panel Now Online

Combining information technology with microscopic nanotechnology can help us find and weaken toxic bacteria so antibiotics can destroy them

Here’s the Innovations in Biotech workshop at COSM 2021 dedicated to “Killing Disease and Living Longer,” on November 11, 2021 in Bellevue, Washington:

Panelists:

Matt McIlwain (Moderator) — Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group
Stephen C. Meyer — Director, Center for Science and Culture
Jim Tour — T.t. and W.f. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Rice University
Matthew Scholz — CEO, Oisin Biotechnologies

Attendee Casey Luskin offers an overview of this panel at Manipulating Molecules: Combining info + nano for better medicine: At COSM 2021, scientists like Jim Tour and entrepreneurs like Matt Scholz offer a window into how we are learning to manipulate the building blocks of life (November 12, 2021).

For example, Tour and his team are designing light-activated nanodrills which can drill holes in the cell walls of disease-causing bacteria, seen below:

Credit: James Tour. Used with permission.

Tour explained to the audience that his nanodrills can be programmed to target the so-called “super bacteria” that have become resistant to drugs by drilling holes through their cell walls. Drilling either kills the bacterial cells or weakens them so that antibiotics work again against them!

Nanodrills are a valuable new tool because bacteria cannot simply develop resistance to them, as he noted:

This is not a chemical interaction. This is a mechanical interaction that is happening at the molecular scale. And because it’s a mechanical interaction, it’s very hard for a cell to deal with this.

It would be like developing resistance to a scalpel.

It gets better: When the nanodrills punch holes in the cell walls and cytoplasmic membranes of bacteria, the cells burst and their contents are dumped out into the body of the host. Then we can “couple this with immunotherapy,” he explained, so that an organism’s natural immune system can recognize the contents of bacteria and be activated to target those bacteria.

Adding information to our cells’ systems is key here: These nanodrills don’t just kill cells at random. They can be programmed so as to target only certain types of dangerous bacterial cells. They can even be programmed to recognize, target, and destroy cancerous cells in a host’s body where most cells aren’t cancerous.

Tour hopes that his nanodrills will find a place in future therapies to treat problems like antibiotic resistance and tumors. At the core of his research is using our own intelligence to create therapies that outsmart antibiotic resistance—in other words, to beat evolution with intelligent design.

Grab a coffee and watch!


You may also wish to read: What biotech innovations can help us live longer, healthier? Jay Richards interviews venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, whose firm invests in new tech on current promising new directions. McIlwain chaired a panel at COSM 2021 that included eminent chemist James Tour on how to integrate information theory and biology for next generation cures.


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“Killing Disease and Living Longer” Biotech Panel Now Online