Building New Materials from Chemically Modified Proteins

Matthew B. Francis, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Chemistry University of California, Berkeley
Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 4:30pm
Schiciano Auditorium A

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The uniquely diverse structures and functions of biomolecules offer many exciting opportunities for creating new materials with advanced properties. Using only a limited set of side chains and auxiliary groups, they have evolved unparalleled abilities to accelerate chemical transformations, facilitate the delivery of genetic cargo to targeted cells, bind specific analytes in complex mixtures, transduce energy, and generate elaborate three-dimensional structures through self-assembly. Over the years, our lab has sought to incorporate these capabilities into new materials for use in diagnostic imaging, solar energy collection, and water purification. To do this, however, we also needed to develop a suite of chemical strategies that can attach synthetic molecules and polymers to single locations on a wide range of biomolecules. For future materials applications these reactions also must be economical and scalable, requiring them to achieve high yields with minimal reagent excesses. The development of such strategies presents a major frontier in contemporary chemistry research, and in addition to facilitating materials synthesis these new methods have far-reaching implications for biological labeling and the preparation of biotherapeutics. This presentation will focus on the application of these new modification strategies for the preparation of new bioconjugates for a range of different applications.


Matt Francis was born in Ohio in 1971 and received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Miami University in Oxford, OH in 1994. From 1994-1999 he attended graduate school at Harvard University, working in the lab of Prof. Eric Jacobsen. His Ph.D. research involved the development of combinatorial strategies for the discovery and optimization of new transition metal catalysts. He then moved to UC Berkeley, where he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science. He worked under the guidance of Prof. Jean Fréchet, focusing on the development of DNA-based methods for the assembly of polymeric materials and the application of dendrimers for drug delivery. Matt started his independent career in the UC Berkeley Chemistry Department in 2001, and has built a research program involving the development of new organic reactions for protein modification. These new chemical tools have then been used to modify biomolecular assemblies to prepare new materials for diagnostic imaging, wastewater treatment, and solar cell development. Over the years, Matt has received the Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award, an NSF Career Award, and a GlaxoSmithKline Young Investigator Award. He has also received the Departmental Teaching Award on three occasions, the Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and the 2009 University-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. He is currently a Full Professor and the Executive Associate Dean of the Berkeley College of Chemistry. In addition, he is a Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and he is the Acting Director of the Organic Nanostructures Facility at the Molecular Foundry.