26 May 2016 11:28

A Lancaster University scientist has successfully tested a new analytical approach that will help advance our understanding of molecules used in the biopharmaceutical sector.

Dr Lorna Ashton, of Lancaster University’s Chemistry department, has used Raman spectroscopy to determine the topology, or shape, of plasmid DNA (small DNA molecules). Although Raman spectroscopy has been applied in other areas, it is underused in the development of DNA based biopharmaceuticals.

This non-invasive method, which provides almost real-time information, works by measuring the scattering of light caused by molecular vibrations – providing a unique fingerprint of the molecule. It is important to know the shape and structure of the molecules as this can determine its effectiveness in new therapeutic treatments such as gene therapies.

Further development of the technique could offer advantages over existing analytical methods that are invasive or require long preparation times. It could help ensure that therapeutic drugs do not change structure during the manufacturing process.

Dr Ashton said: “This technique is underused in the research and development of biopharmaceuticals but we discovered that Raman spectroscopy can be used to determine the different forms of plasmid DNA.”

The research project, which was funded through a business voucher from BioProNET, saw Dr Ashton work with Cobra Biologics, a biopharmaceutical company that supplied the samples of Plasmid DNA for the research.