Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Customizable nanoparticles for advanced imaging and simultaneous gene delivery

Technology #cu15294

This technology describes how to create and use polymer nanoparticles that enable cellular imaging via Raman scattering. These Raman-active nanoparticles overcome the traditional shortcomings associated with nanoparticles such as difficult synthesis, cellular toxicity, the need for background contrast, and bleaching when exposed to a light source. Moreover, these particles have broad functionality, including multiplexed experiments in cellular mechanics, diagnostic imaging spanning multiple days, and, critically, delivery of gene therapy agents with simultaneous imaging. These Raman-active nanoparticles not only overcome the drawbacks of existing nanoparticle technologies, but open the doors to advanced imaging techniques and new applications.

Raman-active nanoparticles combine transfection with multiplexed, multi-day, high signal imaging

This nanoparticle technology is created through straight-forward emulsion polymerization techniques, using a co-monomer containing Raman-active agents and cyclopropenium surfactants. This process grants control of particle size (10 to 100+ nm) and biomolecule conjugation, including payloads of multiple nucleic acids, antibodies, and drugs. Unlike other nanoparticles, Raman-active nanoparticles are stable across multiple imaging instances and provide strong signals due to each Raman tag’s unique molecular vibration signature, which minimally influences particle behavior when acting as delivery agents. Additionally, since the nanoparticles are organic molecules and are imaged through their natural vibrations, they avoid the cytotoxicity, photobleaching, and contrasting agents associated with conventional inorganic molecules such as quantum dots, fluorescent tags, or gold particles. The simplicity, exceptional properties, and wide range of customizability allows this technology to be effective in many applications previously unaddressable by nanoparticles.

Lead Inventor:

Luis M. Campos, Ph.D.


  • Cellular mechanistic studies
  • Multiplexed imaging
  • Therapeutics involving the delivery of drugs or nucleic acids
  • Therapeutics and experiments involving drug or nucleic acid delivery with simultaneous imaging
  • In vivo and in vitro imaging for diagnostics, ranging from single molecules to organ systems
  • Diagnostic imaging procedures spanning multiple days
  • Microstructure imaging of inorganic materials


  • Easy synthesis of functionalized nanoparticles via emulsion polymerization
  • Particles are size-tunable for different applications
  • Accepts a wide range of biomolecule conjugates
  • Allows repeated imaging (particles are stable for multiple days)
  • Provides for multiplex imaging
  • Exhibits very high signal-to-noise ratios
  • Permits simultaneous molecular imaging and drug delivery
  • No background contrast requirement for imaging
  • Displays no cytotoxity due to all organic composition
  • Free of photobleaching

Patent Information:

Patent Pending (US 20160267688)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU15294

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