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Massey Launches Biological Nanorod Company ‘Nanophage Technologies’ with Bridgewest Ventures

09 March 2022

In 2014, Stephen Hawking’s programme, The Science of the Future, featured filament-like viruses as a future technology. Associate Professor Jasna Rakonjac of Massey University’s School of Natural Sciences wholeheartedly agrees. She has dedicated 10 years developing a safer virus-free production of biological nanorods and is now applying this novel technology to develop a first-to-market diagnostic test through the start-up company Nanophage Technologies Ltd.

Biological nanorods are nanometre-size rods made of DNA and protein. Created in a lab and without using a virus, they are safe for both environmental and human use. The rods’ length can be tuned precisely, and they can be ‘decorated’ with a multitude of antibodies and molecules that allow them to be visualised as brightly coloured probes. Combining these features with the fact that they are inexpensive to manufacture, producing ten quadrillion per batch, these versatile nanorods can be applied in a variety of medical and environmental diagnostic tests quickly, cheaply, and most importantly with high sensitivity.

Electron microscope image of the stacked 80-nm nanorods

Dr Rakonjac says, ‘’biological nanorods will transform diagnostic testing as they have potential to detect the presence of molecules at a far lower levels than other diagnostic tools on the market allowing for early action or medical intervention.’’

The technology has been developed with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Massey Ventures Limited, the wholly owned commercialisation company of Massey University. The path to commercialisation is being funded from Callaghan Innovation’s Deep Tech Incubator Programme that supports deep tech start-ups with repayable grants, alongside seed investment from Bridgewest Ventures. Saum Vahdat, Managing Partner of Bridgewest Ventures and Director of Nanophage Technologies says, “Bridgewest are focused on incubating and launching major, global, innovation-led companies to impact the health industry. Biological nanorods will power the next generation of diagnostics and create the change we want to see.”

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