Antibiotic-resistant bacteria like E. Coli and Staphylococcus kill at least 23,000 people and cause over two million infections in the U.S. annually. To battle these bugs, researchers in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering developed a new kind of metal nanoparticle known as a “quantum dot.” Unlike other nanoparticles, these injectable dots only activate when exposed to a particular wavelength of light, allowing researchers to customize treatments and target infections precisely without damaging healthy cells. “We can tailor quantum dots quickly and fight back faster in this evolutionary race,” says Assistant Professor Prashant Nagpal. The dots killed 92 percent of drug-resistant bacterial cells in a lab-grown culture. Last year, Nagpal and fellow Assistant Professor Anushree Chatterjee patented the technology and co-founded PRAAN Biosciences, Inc., a Boulder-based startup company that sequences genetic profiles with a single molecule. The innovation could further improve treatment of future superbug strains.
Each quantum dot is 20,000x smaller than a human hair
Prashant Nagpal, Anushree Chatterjee
National Science Foundation (NSF); W.M. Keck Foundation
Chemical and Biological Engineering; BioFrontiers Institute