Functionally-Interdependent Shape-Switching Nucleic Acid Nanoparticles

RNA interference (RNAi) is a naturally occurring post-transcriptional gene regulation process that represses the expression of specific genes. Exploiting endogenous RNAi by externally-delivered small-interfering RNA (siRNA) is a promising therapeutic for the treatment of various diseases representing several major unmet medical needs. 

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have developed DNA- and RNA-based nanoparticles that can induce RNA interference (RNAi), molecular imaging, or a combination thereof. Two DNA- or RNA-based nanoparticles are required to induce RNAi: one nanoparticle comprising up to six (6) DNA or RNA strands and the other nanoparticle comprising the complementary DNA or RNA strands. Upon association of two complementary nanoparticles, conformational changes (or “shape switching”) occurs to both nanoparticles. Nucleic acid duplexes are released upon shape-switching, which activates functional units capable of delivering siRNA and/or transcribable DNA templates. 

The National Cancer Institute is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in licensing or in collaborative research to co-develop RNAi-based nanoparticle therapeutics for cancer, viral infection, and genetic diseases.

Potential Commercial Applications: Competitive Advantages:

• Cancer, infectious disease, and genetic disease therapeutics
• Research tool to study cancer, viral infection, and other diseases
• Molecular imaging
• Drug delivery


• Increased potency
• Low cytotoxicity
• Tunable stability
• Multiple functionalities and targets
• Controlled activation
• Dynamic interaction or “Shape-Switching”
• Activation from only two particles for simple delivery and functionality

Development Stage:
Discovery (Lead Identification)

Related Invention(s):


Bruce Shapiro (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Kirill Afonin

Eckart Bindewald

Mathias Viard

Wojciech Kasprzak

Marina Dobrovolskaia

Justin Halman

Wojciech Khisamutdinov

Intellectual Property:
US Application No. 62/480,899

Kirill Afonin et al. PMID 20802494
Kirill Afonin et al. PMID 24189588
Wojciech Khisamutdinov et al.  PMID 259967062

Collaboration Opportunity:

Licensing and research collaboration

Licensing Contact:
John Hewes, Ph.D.
Phone: 240-276-5515

OTT Reference No: E-277-2016
Updated: Oct 23, 2017