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Tri-functionalized cryptophane biosensors for biomolecular imaging and MRI diagnostics

Cryptophanes with high xenon affinity enable ultrasensitive detection of analytes in solution using Xe-129 NMR/MRI

Technology Overview: 

The Dmochowski Lab has developed biosensors comprised of tri-functionalized cryptophane with high affinity for hyperpolarized 129Xe.  These biosensors can be designed to detect molecular markers associated with cancer and other disease. More specifically, a biosensor has been synthesized that detects matrix metalloproteases (MMPs), which are frequently upregulated in many cancers. 

The MMP enzyme cleaves the peptide covalently attached to the 129Xe biosensor, resulting in a change in the chemical environment of 129Xe readily detectable by a 0.5 ppm chemical shift in NMR. The features of these tri-functionalized cryptophanes enable the detection of picomolar concentrations of cryptophane biosensors by a technique known as Hyper-CEST NMR/MRI.  Additional xenon biosensors have been designed to target integrin receptors, folate receptor, and carbonic anhydrase. In most cases, binding the cryptophane biosensor to its protein target produces a measureable change in the Xe-129 NMR chemical shift.


  • Tri-functionalized cryptophanes well-solubilized in water
  • Highest known affinity for xenon
  • Very favorable Xe exchange kinetics
  • Ultrasensitive analyte detection
  • Tri-functionalized cryptophane biosensors can be designed that each yield distinct 129Xe NMR chemical shifts and can be targeted to different biomarkers


  • Biosensors
  • 129Xe MRI diagnostics next-generation platform
  • Biomolecular imaging and enhancement of existing 1H MRI technology


From Khan et al, 2015. Folate-conjugated cryptophane to target cryptophane to membrane-bound folate receptors that are overexpressed in many human cancers.

Stage of Development: 

In vitro proof-of-concept testing

Intellectual Property: 

Reference Media: 

Desired Partnerships: 

  • License
  • Co-development

Patent Information:


Docket # T4532

For Information, Contact:

Cortney Cavanaugh Licensing Officer, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania