Carbohydrates, comprising approximately 80% of Earth’s biomass, are the main structural components of cells and tissues and are critical to the development of complex multicellular organisms. Many biological interactions are dictated by carbohydrates, including cell-cell recognition, cellular signaling processes, formation of biological networks, and uptake of extracellular materials. Moreover, carbohydrates play significant roles in disease progression and in modulating immunity.  Building on recent, significant advances in solid phase carbohydrate synthesis and harnessing the power of controlled living polymerization chemistries, this program aims to pioneer a new class of synthetic glycopolymers, called carbohydrate-polymer conjugates (CPCs). This research will enable the systematic study of how glycopolymer structure impacts its biological function and answer important questions at the interface of chemistry and biology. With this knowledge, our goal is to design novel carbohydrate-based biomaterials for applications in biology and medicine.

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Bottlebrush Glycopolymers

Our goal is to elucidate the fundamental parameters that drive carbohydrate- mediated assembly in nature. Towards this end, we are working to identify structure-function relationships of carbohydrate bottlebrush polymers, both natural and synthetic. Ultimately, this work may lead to new types of  biocompatible materials for regenerative medicine.

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Galectin-Mediated Tumor Targeting

We aim to understand the kinetics and dynamics of in situ biological hydrogel formation by studying the interactions between galectins (a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins overexpressed in tumors) and their substrates. By hijacking these interactions, our goal is to target tumors with high specificity for both imaging and cancer therapy.

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Immune Evasion with Carbohydrates

We seek to ascertain the molecular patterns that define cells as “self” (i.e., not recognized by the immune system as foreign). Through the systematic interrogation of the interactions between immune cells and CPCs as artificial glycocalyces, we will use the knowledge gained to develop new materials that are immune evasive.