Smart molecular probes based on nucleic acids, (bio)analytical method development and spectroscopic instrumentation

Area of Interests

  • Development of smart molecular probes and their drug analogs for cancer and diabetes
  • Development of spectroscopic instrumentation for applications in biomedical, pharmaceutical and oil & gas industries
  • New (bio)analytical method development and multiplexing methodologies




Current Research Projects

  • Development of an Analytical Detection Platform Based on Smart Molecular Probes for Cancer Diagnostics Applications
  • In situ Determination of Metformin in Diabetes Tablets by Raman spectroscopy


Research Details

The main thrust of my research is analytical spectroscopy and instrumentation. My research group is developing new analytical techniques for applications in biomedical, pharmaceutical and oil& gas industries. Such methods are based on spectroscopy, namely: fluorescence, Raman, UV-Vis and FTIR spectroscopic techniques.

             Specifically, my research is divided into three broad areas:

1.    Development of nucleic acids molecular probes and nucleic acids-based drugs

We are developing sensitive molecular probes based on nucleic acids for sequence-specific detection of DNAs and RNAs that have implications in human health. In this regard, we use rational design to construct hairpin probe sequences such as molecular beacons (MBs) and smart probes (SPs) for the detection of specific DNA and RNA sequences.  In doing so, we exploit purine and pyrimidine base analogs, locked nucleic acids (LNAs) and other modified nucleic acids to confer desired characteristics on the molecular probes. Our hairpin probes have stem-loop structures, the loop sequence is designed to be complementary to the DNA or RNA sequence of interest, while the stem sequence is designed to confer adequate conformational stability on the probe such that the melting temperature Tm of the stem is higher than that of the loop sequence. In addition, one end of the stem is tethered with a fluorescent probe, while the other end carries a suitable quencher.

An extension of this work is to harness these nucleic acids and use them as drugs for attacking genetic diseases. We are also exploring peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) for probe and drug development in this regard. This project has applications in biomedical diagnostics and nucleic acids drug discovery.


2.    Raman spectroscopy for in situ pharmaceutical analysis

My research group is interested in harnessing the versatility and robustness of Raman spectroscopy to develop new analytical methodologies. For instance, one current project is the development of a new solid-phase method for the direct analysis of pharmaceutical drugs. In this project, Raman spectroscopy is being used to determine active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) directly in pharmaceutical drugs. The ultimate goal of this is to come up with a fast and reliable detection method for pharmaceutical analysis, establishing drugs integrity and for counterfeit detection using hand-held Raman spectrometers. We are currently using visible Raman spectroscopy for direct assay of diabetes tablets of various doses. We are showing that Raman spectroscopy is capable of directly determining the amount of API in these tablets, without sample preparation or pre-treatment.



3.    Analytical and spectroscopic instrumentation for industrial applications

We are also interested in developing analytical techniques as well as spectroscopic instrumentation for various applications. Planned projects in this category include development of quantum cascade laser photoacoustic spectroscopy (QCL-PAS) technique, low-frequency Raman instrumentation, smartphone-based spectroscopy, and development of a surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) method for the characterization of asphaltenes.





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