Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of California, Irvine
12 PM, Thursday, April 20th, 2017
1003 Kemper Hall
Abstract: New materials that can be programmed to elicit biological responses have enormous potential in therapeutic applications. Our research group uses a biomimetic approach to design such materials. We apply tools of genetic engineering to produce nanostructured, protein-based materials that cannot be fabricated using conventional chemical synthesis. By redesigning architecture and self-assembly behavior at the molecular and nanoscale levels, one can customize these biomaterials to yield novel properties and biological interactions. One example is a self-assembling protein nanoparticle based on pyruvate dehydrogenase. By truncating this complex down to its structural core, we obtain a highly-stable, 25-nm dodecahedron with a hollow cavity. We have demonstrated that this nanoparticle can be engineered to accommodate drug molecules, exhibit pH-triggered assembly and drug release, and target cancer cells. Furthermore, viral-mimetic cancer vaccines designed from these nanoparticles yield a significant increase of survival time in tumor-challenge studies. In another example of a biomimetic scaffold, we have developed a platform to fabricate a new class of polymers that had previously been elusive to create. These biopolymers are based on the extracellular matrix protein collagen, and we demonstrate that the responses of cells deposited on these materials can be tuned by altering specific chemical and biological sites within the polymers. Current investigations are focused on the immunomodulatory effects of these materials. Our studies collectively reveal the tremendous potential of using natural protein scaffolds as a departure point for creating novel classes of biomaterials.
Biography: Dr. Szu Wang received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, during which she was a Whitaker Foundation Graduate Fellow. After graduation, she held Research Scientist positions at The Liposome Company (Elan Pharmaceuticals) and TransForm Pharmaceuticals, companies that specialized in drug delivery and formulations. Dr. Wang is now a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of California, Irvine. Her research group designs and investigates biomimetic materials, molecular delivery, and protein self-assembly for applications in therapeutics and tissue engineering. She has received a Faculty of the Year teaching award from the Engineering Student Council and a Mid-Career Faculty Excellence in Research Award from the School of Engineering at UC Irvine. Her research has been supported by several agencies, including the NSF, NIH, and DoD