Bill Dunbar captures mentored training award to add feedback control to nanopore DNA sequencing technology

Bill Dunbar captures mentored training award to add feedback control to nanopore DNA sequencing technology
Bill Dunbar captures mentored training award to add feedback control to nanopore DNA sequencing technology
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

William Dunbar, assistant professor of computer engineering, has received a mentored career award from the NIH. This is a retraining award, with three biomolecular engineering faculty members as the mentors: David Haussler is the primary mentor and David Deamer and Mark Akeson are co-mentors.

The award, the Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award (K25), supports productive professionals who have quantitative and engineering backgrounds to integrate their expertise with NIH-relevant research. It will provide Dunbar with support and 'protected time' for a period of supervised study and research.

Dunbar's research has been in the area of feedback control. In this project, he will be applying feedback control to probe and enhance the ability of nanopores for sequencing individual DNA molecules. Nanopore technology shows great promise for inexpensive sequencing at high speed and with minimal preparative steps, as a part of the $1000 genome project.

Dunbar said, 'Such capability would lead to efficient reading of human SNPs or other genetic variations. This would in turn lead to disease treatments and preventions based on information from the patient's own genome.'

The inability to regulate the speed of a molecule's translocation through the nanopore has emerged as the primary obstacle to realizing the potential of this technology. Feedback control has the potential to address this obstacle.

In particular, Dunbar's primary goal is to design novel algorithms for feedback control as single polymers travel through a nanopore. He expects the algorithms to be able to operate on a millisecond time scale and with angstrom-level precision.

Long-term possibilities for this research would be the ability to efficiently determine the concentration of all mRNA in a single cell at an instant of time and an improved ability to accurately track molecular events that occur during cell differentiation.

The purpose of the Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award is to attract to NIH-relevant research those investigators whose quantitative science and engineering research has thus far not been focused primarily on questions of health and disease.