Research philosophy and approach
The research in the Heise group is broadly centred around polymeric materials that can interact with a biological environment. The group has developed a number of platform materials, which by macromolecular design can be manipulated to meet potentially different application requirements. The development of these materials is often curiosity and science driven and of fundamental nature with strong elements of polymer synthesis towards defined macromolecular structures. The outcome is fundamental structure property relationships providing data to engage with collaborators on targeted, clinically informed application development or device integration. It entails material processing into suitable designs and performance mapping under in vitro and/or in vivo conditions. This interdisciplinary element is carried out in collaboration with microbiologists, pharmacists, tissue engineers, etc. If results are promising, commercialisation is considered.
Current platform materials
Amino acids are ideal monomers for the design of biomedical polymers: they are natural, functional and can readily be polymerised through their N-carboxyanhydrides (NCA). Over the last decade, the Heise group has extensively explored poly(amino acid)s or synthetic polypeptides spanning from fundamental understanding of the NCA polymerisation to novel material. Selected highlights can be found here.
Aliphatic polyesters are very established biomaterials (e.g. PLGA) but many challenges still remain. For example, the functionalisation of aliphatic polyesters is not straightforward. The Heise group has explored unsaturated polyesters derived from naturally occurring saturated and unsaturated macrolactone as functional biomaterials. Selected highlights can be found here.
Hybrid or composite materials are very common in engineering and nature. When a single material falls short on one or two properties, the formation of hybrid materials can overcome this by combining the best of two materials. The Heise group has recently begun to explore hybrid hybrid biopolymers specifically based on the polypeptide platform. Selected highlights can be found here.