Research Overview

The goal of our research group is BioNanomaterials-based innovations of present technologies with efficiency and safety for humans and the environment. We mainly focus on bio-engineering of nature-derived nanomaterials, which have high surface/volume ratios and other favorable properties, including mono-dispersibility, high stability, low toxicity, biocompatibility, and biodegradability. Specific applications of these engineered BioNanomaterials, including bioassays, molecular imaging diagnostics, drug delivery, biocatalysis and materials science, among other applications, are our ultimate goals.

Natural

De novo designed

Drug Delivery

& Biomimetics System

Certain naturally occurring proteins consist of a number of subunit building blocks that are capable of self-assembling to form nanoscale cages. These BioNanomaterials have high surface/volume ratios and other favorable properties, including high stability, low toxicity, biocompatibility, biodegradability, and capacity for easy genetic and chemical modification. Moreover, these bottom-up structures are highly symmetrical and have extremely homogeneous size distribution, and highly repetitive structure, thus one single modification is identically displayed in a controlled fashion around the entire particle. Thus, these BioNanomaterials have attracted considerable attention and have been manipulated for various applications. Our group aims to design and bio-engineer these properties of BioNanomaterials for nanomedicine (e.g. drug delivery and biomimetics systems). We pursue modifications of various types of protein-based nanomaterials for therapeutic purposes and develop improved drug-loading mechanisms and bioengineering strategies via genetic and chemical functionalization.

Multi-functional Biocompatible Hydrogel

Hydrogels are physical and/or chemically crosslinked three-dimensional hydrophilic polymeric matrixes. Due to their high water content, mechanical and physical properties (e.g. viscoelasticity), and ability to mimic natural tissue with superior cytocompatibility, hydrogels have been of particular interest as versatile platforms for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering, drug and cell delivery, and 3D cell culture system. In particular, biocompatibility and biodegradability are important requirements for the design and bio-engineering of hydrogels. Design and creation of novel self-assembled protein-based hydrogels with good biocompatibility and biodegradability, as well as multi-functionality, are our research interests and overcoming the barriers for the widespread industrial use of protein-based hydrogels are our ultimate research goals.

Non-toxic and Long-acting Nanomaterials

Effective drug delivery depends not only on the encapsulation efficacy of drugs but is also dependent on the target-ability, cellular uptake, release kinetics, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties. In fact, an average of 5% of molecules is transported to the target tissue after distribution in the body. Therefore, factors such as selective and overall effective transport, enhanced absorption by target tissue, are all crucial in reducing drug toxicity and potentially decreasing the dose of drug administered. Moreover, in vivo stability and issues regarding their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) are significant challenges and limitations in the clinical development of protein-based nanomaterials. Thus, we aim to investigate strategies for enhanced drug encapsulation, superior release kinetics and delivery to target tissue with improved PK and PD properties.

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