437833 Leveraging Supramolecular Interactions for Therapeutics

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Matthew Webber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Pressures arising from the increasing incidence of disease, coupled with a focus on improving the quality of life for patients, inspires the development of creative healthcare solutions. The next generation of “smart” therapies must include strategies for autonomous sensing of disease state and disease site, routes for high affinity and high efficiency therapeutic targeting, strategies that address the complications that arise from the immune system, and materials that provide both structural and functional recapitulation of native tissue properties, among many others. In this regard, therapies based on supramolecular principles could have broad impact. Supramolecular chemistry, defined as “chemistry beyond the molecule”, is based on rational design of specific, directional, tunable, reversible, non-covalent molecular recognition motifs that exploit combinations of hydrogen bonding, metal chelation, hydrophobic interactions, pi-pi interactions, and/or van der Waals interactions. Through these motifs, materials can be created with properties that follow from the dynamic nature of their constituents. Leveraging these interactions may contribute distinct and useful properties that have been unrealized thus far by materials used in medicine. Though non-covalent interactions are individually weak in comparison to a covalent bond, the summation and directionality of these interactions leads to materials with mechanical properties approaching those of covalent systems, with the added benefit that these interactions are reversible, highly tunable, dynamic, and modular. My own training has included work with peptide amphiphile supramolecular polymers during my PhD in Prof. Samuel Stupp’s lab, along with postdoctoral training in the laboratories of Profs. Robert Langer and Daniel Anderson developing new “smart” strategies for insulin delivery. The Webber laboratory, with a basis in my own personal training, will be built on the use of a diverse toolbox of supramolecular systems to build highly functional next-generation disease therapeutics. A specific emphasis will be placed on therapeutic applications for diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. Students within this training environment will have the opportunity to cross-train within various disciplines, as developing new supramolecular therapeutics will encompass areas of chemistry, materials science, biology, and biomedical engineering. The interdisciplinary nature of the group will also necessitate strong collaborations, particularly with clinicians, that will further enrich this training environment.

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