The Promise of Oligos in Medicine

Oligonucleotides are short DNA or RNA molecules that can be chemically synthesized in quantities from micrograms to metric tons. Due to their ability to bind to complementary sequences through Watson-Crick base pairing, they are being used in therapeutics, diagnostic testing, DNA sequencing, and vaccine production. Recent development of mRNA vaccine candidates for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has increased public awareness of oligonucleotide technologies.


Oligonucleotides used as a novel class of therapeutics are attracting much attention. Numerous oligonucleotides are being evaluated in clinical trials for the treatment of a variety of diseases, especially those that cannot be effectively treated by conventional small-molecule drugs or protein therapeutics. Oligo-based therapeutics are promising because they have high specificity. Several therapeutic treatments based on oligonucleotides have already been approved in the United States, and many more are currently being evaluated for treatment of cancer, infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, genetic disorders, and other diseases.

Oligonucleotide therapeutics are quite diverse, using antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), small interfering RNAs (siRNA), microRNA (miRNA), or aptamers. They can inhibit gene expression or impede protein function by interacting with a specific sequence of a target gene or protein.


Vaccines have contributed to the eradication or control of infectious diseases and subsequently increased life expectancy in human populations. The lack of effective vaccines against infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, along with the appearance of new infectious diseases like COVID-19, has stimulated research on vaccines and vaccine components, including new adjuvants.

Vaccines typically contain one or more adjuvants to improve vaccine efficacy by boosting the immune response to produce more antibodies for longer-lasting immunity. Recently, there has been growing interest in the use of ASOs as adjuvants. Studies have demonstrated that vaccine efficacy can be improved by either inducing antigen modification with enhanced expression of immunogenic molecules or targeting specific components of the immune system to achieve the desired immune response.


The molecular diagnostics market is growing steadily and is accompanied by the increasing need for oligonucleotides. Oligonucleotides are used as primers and probes for polymerase chain reactions (PCR), and they are also used in microarrays, in situ hybridizations, and antisense analyses. The reverse transcription (RT)-PCR test can detect the presence of a specific virus, such as the coronavirus, by amplifying viral RNA in a patient sample.

High-Quality Oligonucleotide Production

Regardless of the final use of a chemically synthesized oligonucleotide, purity and yield are crucial for oligo manufacturers. To obtain the desired oligonucleotide, phosphoramidite building blocks are sequentially coupled according to the sequence of the desired product. The solid-supported phosphoramidite synthesis cycle has been the mainstay of oligonucleotide synthesis since the late 1970s. Once the oligonucleotide is the appropriate length, the oligo is cleaved from the solid support, deprotected, and purified. The occurrence of side reactions must be minimized because errors can accumulate as the oligonucleotide is synthesized.

Burdick & Jackson BioSyn Reagents and Solvents

To ensure high-purity oligonucleotide production, it is important to start with high-quality reagents and solvents from a proven manufacturer — especially when health and lives are at stake.

Honeywell´s Burdick & Jackson BioSyn products are specifically processed and purified to exacting specifications, ensuring outstanding oligo synthesis efficiency. They include ready-to-use reagents for each step of the oligonucleotide synthesis cycle in various formulations, as well as acetonitrile with extremely low water content for the washing steps. All chemicals are produced using consistent quality manufacturing standards, including submicron filtration, to ensure improved overall purity and yield of the final product. They address the needs of oligo manufacturers with a wide range of pack sizes from 1 L glass bottles to 1250 L returnable containers that connect directly to popular synthesizers.

Honeywell has been an innovator in chemistry for more than 200 years. We continue to evolve and offer high-quality products that support medical applications of oligonucleotides.


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