Research Fellows Directory
Professor Dong-Ku Kang
Imperial College London
The central concept of current studies is to carry out experiments in small water droplets, separated from each other by a continuous oil phase, within a microfluidic channel. For example to generate novel biological catalysts each droplet would contain a gene and an in vitro transcription/translation system that includes all the ingredients for in vitro protein expression. The selection of the catalytically active enzymes is entirely on chip, using molecular biology to generate the new catalysts and analytical chemistry to screen them. The power of the discovery platform is such that it should be able to screen catalysts at rates up to 105 times faster than is presently possible. Combining the attributes of compartmentalisation of reactions into microdroplets with the rapid advances occurring in microfluidics offers the prospect of a completely new approach to experimental science. This requires the development of devices for the generation and manipulation of droplets, and new analytical approaches to follow what is happening, on a very small scale, inside the droplets. This is being achieved by integrating developments in physics, microfabrication, microfluidics, and colloid science.
The challenge is to drive the development of this new technology by applying it to establishing a flexible experimental platform, which will initially be exploited in developing novel biological catalysts. However microdroplet technology transcends disciplinary boundaries and has the potential to be applied to other areas including; the discovery of non-biological catalysts; high throughput screening for drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry; or large scale proteomics analyses in systems biology.