Smart polymer-protein bioconjugates
Modification of biomacromolecules (e.g., proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides) with synthetic polymers is a viable means to increase efficacy for many in vivo and in vitro applications. In many cases, important characteristics (e.g., solubility, biocompatibility, stability, activity) of the biological component are conserved or enhanced due to the presence of the immobilized polymer. Typical conjugation methods primarily consist of grafting-from, which describes the polymerization of monomer from a biomolecule capable of initiation, and grafting-to, which involves immobilization of preformed polymer by reactive coupling. We have employed both methods, in combination with RAFT polymerization, to synthesize well-defined polymer-protein conjugates. While important, our research is not limited to the preparation of new biological materials with potential applications in drug delivery, enzymatic catalysis, etc. Rather, we also seek to elucidate and enhance the fundamental chemistry of the conjugation processes.