Technology ID

Molecular Nanotags for Detection of Single Molecules

Lead Inventor
Jones, Jennifer (NCI)
Telford, William (NCI)
Research Materials
Therapeutic Areas
Infectious Disease
Development Stages
Lead IC

Biological nanoparticles, like extracellular vesicles (EVs), possess unique biological characteristics making them attractive therapeutic agents, targets, or disease biomarkers. However, their use is hindered by the lack of tools available to accurately detect, sort, and analyze. Flow cytometers are used to sort and study individual cells. But, they are unable to detect and sort nanomaterials smaller than 200 nanometers with single epitope sensitivity.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed a new class of nanoscale molecular tags (nanotags) allowing the detection and sorting of single biological nanoparticle using conventional flow cytometers. Otherwise, using standard methods such as fluorescently labeled antibodies, very few epitopes are detected. These nanotags are composed of materials with high refractive indices, high optical absorption, and remarkable spectral scattering properties. These properties allow both low epitope number determination and spectral phenotyping of biological nanoparticles – such as EVs, lipoproteins, RNA-protein complexes and other circulating submicron particles with significant biomedical applications.

The NCI seeks commercial partners to co-develop and/or license this technology.

Competitive Advantages:

  • Detect, sort and analyze nanomaterials <200 nanometers with single epitope sensitivity 
  • Enumeration of the number of labeled molecules beyond the capabilities of current flow cytometric labels and instruments
  • Improved detection above background noise
  • Improved signal:noise ratio 


Commercial Applications:

  • Research tool for studying structure and function of biological nanoparticles
  • Diagnostic tool for detection of clinical biomarkers 
  • Tool for characterization of industrial and environmental nanoparticles
  • Biodefense
  • Industrial sectors
  • Environmental applications
Licensing Contact:
Pollard, Ricquita