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Tel: +44 (0)845 034 7900 | Fax: +44 (0)845 034 7901

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Little Chesterford, Essex, CB10 1XL, UK

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  • Technology
    • Biological nanopores
    • Solid-state nanopores
Introduction to nanopore sensing

The concept of using a nanopore as a biosensor was first proposed in the mid 1990s when research into nanopores was beginning at academic institutions such as Oxford, Harvard and UCSC. Oxford Nanopore was founded in 2005 to translate academic nanopore research into a commercial, electronics-based sensing technology. The comprehensive end-to-end system includes sample preparation, molecular analysis and informatics, and is designed to provide novel benefits to a range of users for a broad number of applications.

Oxford Nanopore has a broad intellectual property portfolio that includes internal innovation and collaborations with world-leading nanopore researchers. This IP includes fundamental nanopore sensing techniques through to solid-state nanopore sensing technology, including graphene.

Nanopore fabrication
A nanopore is, essentially, a nano-scale hole. This hole may be:

•    biological: formed by a pore-forming protein in a membrane such as a lipid bilayer;
•    solid-state: formed in synthetic materials such as silicon nitride or graphene; or
•    hybrid: formed by a pore-forming protein set in synthetic material.

Nanopore sensing
A nanopore may be used to identify a target analyte as follows:

This diagram shows a protein nanopore set in an electrically resistant membrane bilayer. An ionic current is passed through the nanopore by setting a voltage across this membrane.
 
If an analyte passes through the pore or near its aperture, this event creates a characteristic disruption in current. Measurement of that current makes it possible to identify the molecule in question. For example, this system can be used to distinguish between the four standard DNA bases G, A, T and C, and also modified bases. It can be used to identify target proteins and small molecules, or to gain rich molecular information, for example to distinguish between the enantiomers of ibuprofen or study molecular binding dynamics.