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Smart Polymers Responsive to Biological Targets

Professor Stephen Rimmer, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield

Wednesday 18 June 2014, 1400-1500
Frankland Colloquium Room

Chemistry at Lancaster is delighted to announce the fifth seminar in our series, with our second External Speaker, Professor Stephen Rimmer, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield.


The detection of pathogens is of enormous importance in health and the environment as well in many manufacturing processes. Bacteria in particular present challenges as we potentially enter a post-antibiotic period. A number of laboratory based techniques are available for identification of bacteria but there are advantages in developing systems that can be used at the bedside in both clinics, in the community or field. Also, in retail, farming and manufacturing processes simple to use packaging detectors that can used in the field with non-technical staff could improve collection of data that can inform both product rejection or the need for further sterilisation. With these aspects in mind we have developed polymers that respond by binding to bacterial targets. The polymers are branched acrylamide based materials that are prepared by controlled radical polymerisation and a series of further modifications. Sometime ago DeGennes postulated that this class of branched polymers would maintain the end groups in the outer regions of the polymer coil and this aspect is key to our advances in the area because we place the ligands at the chain ends they are available to bind to targets regardless of the state of the polymer. This is very different linear polymers with pendant ligands. Typically, binding of such ligands is only available when the polymer is in a fully solvated and open chin state. The signalling response is a phase transition in which the polymer end groups bind to the target and then salvation is perturbed and the polymer chain progresses from an open coil to a desolated (more hydrophobic) globule. The switch is analogous to protein refolding on binding. Most of our reported work in this area relates to the detection of pathogens but the principles that we are developing are of general relevance to all applications requiring cell targeting.

All staff and postgraduate students welcome. Refreshments will be provided.

Please confirm attendance for catering purposes to Emma Shaw