Materials Discovery through Exploration of Biomolecular Space


Rein Ulijn


City University of New York


Donostia International Physics Center (Hybrid Seminar)


Ivan Sasselli

Living systems provide the most sophisticated materials known. These materials and systems are created from a fully conserved set of just a few dozen building blocks common to all life forms. This observation begs a profound question: why can’t everything, including things that life has not explored, be made from biological building blocks? The Ulijn lab is taking steps to making this vision a reality, not by copying biology, but by developing methodology for bottom- up design, discovery and evolution of functional materials and biofluids to redesign biomolecules for a variety of applications.1 The talk will include our latest research on ongoing projects: (i) Design of peptide modalities that give rise to formation of liquid condensates;2,3 (ii) Mechano-responsive peptide crystals;4 (iii) Drug-matched peptide nanoparticles; (iv) Experimental learning and memory using sequence-adaptive peptide mixtures.5,6 Overall, our research demonstrates that peptides, and dynamically exchanging mixtures of peptides, show significant potential as designable and tunable nanomaterials for a variety of applications in biomedicine and green nanotechnology.

1. Sheehan, et al., Chem. Rev., 2021, 121, 13869-13914.; 
2. A. Jain, et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2022, 144, 15002-15007.
3. D. Sementa, et al., Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2023, e202311.
4. R. Piotrowska, et al., Nature Materials, 2021, 20, 403-409.;
5. A. Jain, et al., Chem, 2022, 8, P1894-1905.;
6. S. Kassem, et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2023, 145, 9800-9807.