Office for Technology Commercialization

Nanocarrier Delivers Protein and Nucleic Acids

Technology #20140085

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Cell DeliveryNanocarrierTransfection Alternative
Joseph A. Zasadzinski, PhD
Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
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Managed By
Raj Udupa
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-3966
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending US20180078612A1

Transfection Alternative

A nanocarrier platform has been designed to deliver proteins and nucleic acids to cells with high efficiency and spatial and temporal control. The platform provides an efficient and safe alternative to transfection methods and can effectively deliver cargo to delicate human stem cells.

The system utilizes hollow gold nanoshells (HGN) conjugated to cell penetrating peptides. The cargo release is controlled by near infrared light (NIR). The platform can rapidly deliver cargo to an entire cell culture, target specific cells in a complex mixture, and deliver to single cells within a population of cells. It is capable of carrying a variety of recombinant proteins, including siRNA, mRNA, and DNA. The timing of the protein entry can be controlled, and the delivery method is highly efficient with low toxicity.

This is the only existing method that utilizes NIR for cell delivery and is capable of differentiating between different cells of the same type for single-cell delivery. This method also uses a conventional two-photon microscope, which doesn’t require any alteration before use with this platform.

Intracellular Delivery

Currently, delivering proteins to cells for therapeutic use or stem cell differentiation is very difficult. Existing methods for DNA and and RNA delivery cannot be used to deliver proteins, because they irreversibly damage the proteins. This innovative nanocarrier platform delivers proteins to cells without denaturing or degrading the proteins. Additionally, unlike microinjection, this platform allows high throughput protein delivery to cells.

This nanocarrier platform could be useful for new therapeutics, light-induced pluripotency, differentiation, subcellular labeling, and pathway inhibition. Additionally, the nanoshell structure is potentially compatible with any in vivo applications.


  • Light-activated control allows for temporal and spatial control of cargo delivery, including to single cells
  • Nanocarrier design doesn’t denature or damage proteins, unlike existing methods
  • The nanocarriers are biocompatible and flexible, they can carry both proteins and nucleic acids

Phase of Development In vitro assessment/proof of concept