University of Notre Dame — Nanopore Protein Sequencing (Gregory Timp) (2021)


Grant investigators: Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville

This page was reviewed but not written by the grant investigators. University of Notre Dame staff also reviewed this page prior to publication.


Open Philanthropy recommended a grant of $1,769,056 over two years to the University of Notre Dame to continue support for Dr. Gregory Timp’s work developing an instrument that uses a sub-nanometer-diameter pore (i.e. a sub-nanopore) to read the amino acid sequence of whole protein molecules. If successful, we believe this tool could facilitate a wide range of basic biological research and ultimately allow for rapid detection of pathogens, thereby improving the diagnosis and treatment of disease as well as potentially improving our ability to respond to pandemic threats.

This follows our June 2017 support, which we recommended as part of our “second chance” program for NIH Transformative Research applicants. It falls within our work on scientific research, specifically within our interest in advancing tools and techniques.

University of Notre Dame — Nanopore Protein Sequencing (Gregory Timp)

The Stinson-Remick clean room at the University of Notre Dame. (Photo copyright: University of Notre Dame, credit: Matt Cashore)

Grant investigator: Heather Youngs

This page was reviewed but not written by the grant investigator. University of Notre Dame staff also reviewed this page prior to publication.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended a grant of $2,054,142 over three years to the University of Notre Dame to support the development of an instrument that uses a sub-nanometer-diameter pore (i.e. a sub-nanopore) to read the amino acid sequence of whole protein molecules. The collaborative effort led by Dr. Gregory Timp involves researchers at the University of San Diego and Johns Hopkins University.

Currently, proteomics relies mainly on mass spectrometry (MS) to analyze the structure of proteins. However, MS does not inform on the complete sequence; it lacks sensitivity (it requires about 1 billion molecules); and it is accomplished using an expensive, room-sized apparatus. In contrast, a sub-nanopore, which is about the size of an amino acid residue, reads the primary structure of a single whole protein molecule, although imperfectly, and is embedded in a microfluidic device about the size of a flash-drive.

If it proves out, we believe this tool could facilitate a wide range of basic biological research and ultimately allow for rapid detection of pathogens, thereby improving the diagnosis and treatment of disease as well as potentially improving our ability to respond to pandemic threats. While the initial applications of this tool are expected in research settings, we believe it is possible that it could eventually be commercialized and lead to inexpensive methods for protein identification and sequencing in clinical settings.

Using our funding, Dr. Timp and his collaborators will experiment with new sub-nanopore topographies, membrane materials and electrolyte conditions to improve the read fidelity and translocation kinetics, as well as explore new algorithms to discriminate between proteins and identify all twenty proteogenic amino acids and their post-translational modifications.

This grant falls within our work on scientific research, and was identified through our 2016 NIH Transformative Research Award RFP.