Deoxyribonucleic acid, the blueprint of evolution, is arguably the world’s most famous molecule. But as McGill University’s Hanadi Sleiman explained to Toronto audiences last fall, the possible applications of DNA range far beyond merely encoding and decoding genetic information. Her public talk, entitled “Molecular Lego with DNA: Building Structures for Medicine and Materials Science,” was delivered as part of the prestigious E. Gordon Young Lectureship, administered by the CIC Chemical Education Fund, and hosted this year by the CIC Toronto Local Section.

The annual lectureship was established in the early 1990s by a bequest from the estate of E. Gordon Young, one of the early pioneers of Canadian biochemistry and a former CIC president.

“Professor Sleiman’s work on the chemistry of DNA molecules is brilliant on a scientific level, and also easily adapted for public presentation,” says John Purdy, chair of the CIC Toronto Local Section. The presentations described her group’s groundbreaking work using synthetic molecules to control and modify DNA self-assembly, allowing for the formation of cages and nanotubes. These structures can encapsulate ‘cargo’ such as gold nanoparticles, and can be opened or closed on demand, making them extremely useful as potential drug delivery tools or cellular probes. “Sleiman is an outstanding speaker,” says Purdy. “Her lectures held the audience in rapt attention. After one of the lectures, I asked the audience if their understanding of the science of chemistry had been changed by what they had seen, and the response was a unanimous ‘yes.’” More information about the E. Gordon Young Lectureship, including how to apply for next year’s award, can be found here.

Photo: John Purdy, chair of the CIC Toronto Local Section, introduces Hanadi Sleiman, this year’s E. Gordon Young Lecturer. Credit: Demyan Prokopchuk