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Developing a technological platform based on the fundamental understanding of peptide self-assembly for the design of novel biomaterials

Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: EP/K016210/1
Funded under: EPSRC Funder Contribution: 1,815,950 GBP
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Developing a technological platform based on the fundamental understanding of peptide self-assembly for the design of novel biomaterials

Description

The use of non-covalent self-assembly to construct materials has become a prominent strategy in material science offering practical routes for the construction of increasingly functional biomaterials. A variety of molecular building blocks can be used for this purpose; one such block is de-novo designed peptides. Peptides offer a number of advantages to materials scientists. Peptide synthesis has become a routine procedure making them easily accessible. The library of 20 natural amino acids offers the ability to play with the intrinsic properties of the peptide such as structure, hydrophobicity, charge and functionality allowing the design of materials with a wide range of properties. The main challenge facing scientists in this field is being able to rationally design these peptides to gain control over the physical properties of the resulting self-assembled materials. This requires not only an in depth knowledge of the self-assembling processes at all length scales, but also a detailed understanding of the specific requirements of each application targeted. A key point that makes the development of an actual technological platform crucial is the variability of the requirements placed on the materials depending on the application targeted. For example, injectable materials need to be developed for cell delivery, while for drug delivery oral cavity sprayable systems could be required. For cell culture and tissue engineering the issue of adaptability of material properties is even more critical as depending on cell type, origin and intended behaviour, cells have very different requirements in term of their environment, (i.e.: material properties and functionality) in which they are placed. Finally, one other key element is the cost of these materials. When used as structural materials such as in hydrogels the quantity of peptide required is significant. In this context the development of a technological platform based on the same family of "simple" and "cheap" to produce peptides that can be used across a number of applications is a significant advantage (see impact summary). Through this fellowship my group will develop such a technological platform by: - Developing a fundamental understanding of the self assembly and gelation properties of our materials at all length scales. In particular we will broaden the range of materials and materials properties (e.g.: mechanical, triggering mechanism, injectability) available to be in a position to design and develop new functional and responsive materials - Develop strong collaborations with academic and industrial end-users. This will allow us to engage end-users with the development process ensuring that the materials we design are relevant and used, and also that we maximise exploration of new potential fields of application - Develop a comprehensive strategy for the exploitation of the IP generated to maximise the impact of the work at all levels. This will be done in close collaboration with University of Manchester Intellectual Properties (UMIP) and will include the coherent and efficient management of existing and future agreements with industrial and academic partners as well as the development of an efficient process for the identification of novel IPs and their protection and exploitation. This project will contribute to a number of priorities and Grand Challenges at the centre of EPSRC's remit. It is fully placed within the EPSRC Healthcare Technologies Challenge theme and will directly contribute to the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering strategic research theme. In addition the work will also contribute towards the EPSRC Regenerative Medicine Grand Challenge and the Chemical sciences and engineering Grand Challenge: Directed Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties, of which I am a member.

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