CAREER: Self-assembled Biodegradable Conjugated Polymers for RNA Interference Grant

CAREER: Self-assembled Biodegradable Conjugated Polymers for RNA Interference .


  • Non-Technical AbstractThe scientific goal of this CAREER Award supported by the Biomaterials program in the Division of Materials Research is to improve the delivery efficiency of synthetic carriers through systematic investigations of the structure-function relationships. Safe and efficient delivery of nucleic acid (i.e., DNA and RNA) molecules to target tissues and cells has high therapeutic potentials against many diseases, because the molecules can specifically block the functions of genes associated with diseases. By optimizing chemical and physical properties and understanding cellular entry/localization of conjugated polymer/RNA complexes, the PI expects to control gene functions efficiently, exceeding current performance levels of the existing carriers. The knowledge obtained from this project will have broader impact on designing and fabricating various synthetic gene and drug delivery systems. Early research experiences and engagements in scientific communities and retaining existing minority undergraduate students in degree programs are recognized as efficient ways to improve the number of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The education goal of this project is to increase the number of minorities in science and engineering through focused outreach programs. By integrating research results into classes to motivate students to pursue higher degree, offering research/career development seminars designed for students at undergraduate institutes (UIs) to encourage students to go to graduate school, and offering research opportunities to local high school students to provide early research experiences and engagement in scientific communities, the PI will cultivate the excitement of research through teaching and dissemination. The relationships built through the proposed project will help support science and engineering training and education in Southeast Florida.Technical AbstractThe goals of this CAREER project are 1) to establish an interdisciplinary biomaterials research program that advances our understanding on the structure-function relationships of polymeric gene/drug delivery materials and 2) to develop innovative educational methods to increase the number of minority students in science and engineering through outreach programs. Despite the excitement regarding RNA interference (RNAi) technology, poor delivery efficiency and toxicity of carriers hinders further breakthroughs in RNAi-based therapeutics. This project allows the PI to systematically investigate the carrier structure-biological function relationships at the cellular level by using fluorescent semiconducting conjugated polymers (CPs). Modulating and controlling the chemical structures of the carriers will lead to in-depth understanding of how the surface properties of the carriers influence the cellular entry pathways and localizations. Finally, biodegradability of CPs allows efficient release of RNA through intracellular unpacking. Visualization of the delivery event and labeling of target cells with CPs having excellent photophysical properties are also beneficial for developing multifunctional biomaterials. The project will allow the PI to share the excitement of the research experience with a significant number of local high school, undergraduate, and graduate students by launching outreach programs including the University Experience Program. The PI and Chemistry Club members will host 4-6 high schools (40 students per school) per year to offer a college-level research experience to underrepresented students.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2014 - February 28, 2022

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 1352317