A Dynamic DNA Discovery Kit: Hand-on Exploration of DNA Structure &Function

Period of Performance: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

3D Molecular Designs
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The goal of this project is to design and prototype a dynamic physical model of DNA that students will use in an active learning environment to explore the 3-D structure of double- stranded DNA - and then easily untwist into a flat, 2-D ladder model in which the two strands of DNA will be separated to serve as templates in the processes of DNA replication and RNA transcription. The dynamic, multi-functional DNA model that is the focus of this Phase I project will become an essential component of a broader molecular biology modeling kit that is envisioned as a Phase II follow-on project - in which students will use the RNA generated from this DNA model in a protein synthesis module to enact the translation of a sequence of nucleotides into a sequence of amino acids in a protein. Together, these active learning tools will provide today's students with a foundational understanding of the molecular logic of the flow of genetic information needed to appreciate how the recent advances in genomic science will soon lead to the routine practice of personalized genomic medicine. The dynamic DNA model proposed in this project will be based on two existing DNA models: (i) an accurate 3-D model of double-stranded DNA in which each atom is color-coded according to atom type, and (ii) a model of double-stranded DNA that can be easily untwisted into a flat, 2-D ladder structure. The major design challenge that will be addressed in this project is the development and strategic placement of three rotatable connector features in the current accurate model of DNA such that the model can be easily inter-converted between the two forms. Additive rapid prototyping technologies will be used to prototype a variety of possible connector features and to test them in functional prototypes of a classroom model kit. This project is a collaborative effort of 3D Molecular Designs, the Rapid Prototyping Center at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and the MSOE Center for BioMolecular Modeling (CBM). The CBM is an instructional materials development laboratory that works closely with high school biology and chemistry teachers to provide professional development programs focused on basic concepts of molecular structure and function. The DNA model created in this SBIR project will be incorporated into these ongoing teacher training programs, funded by a NIH-SEPA (Science Education Partnership Award) from the National Center for Research Resources.