2019 Crano Memorial Lecture

(posted on Monday, February 25, 2019)

      Friday, April 26 - Crano Lecture    

Dr. Bruce Alan Armitage, Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Director, Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology

Afternoon Lecture:

2:30 PM, Mary Gladwin Hall room 111, The University of Akron
Fluorescence Imaging Reagents Based on RNA Aptamers, Synthetic Polymers and Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes

Evening Lecture:

The Overlook Grill, 5:30 PM Social Hour, 6:30 PM Dinner, 7:30 PM, lecture 
DNA Nanotechnology: When Encoding the Genome Just Isn't Enough

The lecture is free and open to the public. Dinner is $25 professionals, $10 students RSVP to Charles Kausch                                                                          

Bruce Armitage was born in Niagara Falls (NY) and raised in Lewiston (NY), a few miles downstream from the Falls. He attended the University of Rochester and received his B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1988. He performed undergraduate research with Professor David G. Whitten, studying photochemical reactions in organized media such as reversed micelles and lipid bilayers. Bruce also spent two summers working in the labs of Drs. Samir Farid and Ian Gould at Eastman Kodak Company, studying the relationship between the thermodynamics and the kinetics of electron transfer reactions within the Marcus inverted region.

Bruce performed his Ph.D. work at the University of Arizona, studying photoinduced electron transfer, energy transfer and polymerization reactions within lipid bilayers under the supervision of Professor David F. O'Brien. After completing his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1993, he joined Professor Gary B. Schuster's group at the University of Illinois as a postdoctoral fellow, working on the design of new DNA photocleavage agents. Bruce moved to Georgia Tech with the Schuster group in 1995 to continue this work. Bruce then spent the summer of 1997 in Denmark, working in the labs of Professors Peter E. Nielsen and Henrik Nielsen at the University of Copenhagen, studying the interactions between peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers and RNA.

In August of 1997, Bruce moved to Carnegie Mellon University as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. He was promoted to Associate and then Full Professor of Chemistry, with courtesy appointments in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering. In 2007, Bruce co-founded the Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, which he co-directs with John Woolford of the Department of Biological Sciences. In 2011, Bruce and Danith Ly co-founded PNA Innovations, Inc, a biotechnology startup company that is commercializing gammaPNA technology under an exclusive license from Carnegie Mellon.

Bruce takes great pleasure in teaching undergraduate organic chemistry and graduate courses in medicinal chemistry, the chemistry of addiction and chemo/biosensors. Bruce’s current research interests include the use of PNA for sequence-specific recognition of DNA and RNA and the development of new fluorescence imaging and sensing reagents.

  Afternoon Abstract:


Fluorescence Imaging Reagents Based on RNA Aptamers, Synthetic Polymers and Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes

The seminar will describe two fluorescent labeling technologies under development in our laboratory. The first technology relies on an RNA aptamer that binds to and activates fluorogenic cyanine dyes, giving either blue or red fluorescence, depending on the structure of the dye. The utility of this promiscuous aptamer is demonstrated by experiments in which it is fused to a separate RNA that recognizes a cell-surface receptor protein, leading to fluorescent labeling. Internalized and cell-surface receptor can be distinguished temporally based on two successive labeling steps in which either blue or red fluorogen is applied to the sample.

The second part of the seminar describes recent work toward improved brightness from fluorescent labels. Whereas most fluorescent reagents (e.g. antibodies) are labeled with a few dyes, we have developed a hybrid material consisting of a polymeric scaffold from which is grafted double-helical DNA that acts as a host for fluorescent intercalating dyes. The resulting nanotags host >1000 dyes with minimal quenching and can be attached to antibodies for use in fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry and dot blotting applications.