Sequence-defined Polymers: Engineering Materials with Biological Precision

Coordinator : Filip Du Prez (Universiteit Gent, Belgium)

UCL promotors : Karine Glinel, Alain Jonas (BSMA) - UCL coordinator: Antony Fernandes (BSMA)

Macromolecules are used by Life for functions such as energy and information storage, replication, molecular recognition, or catalytic and electronic properties. In many cases, this is only possible because the macromolecular chains have a precise sequence of chemical units, by which the chains fold and assemble into controlled (secondary, tertiary and quaternary) three-dimensional structures.

Inspired by this microstructural precision, polymer chemists are currently designing synthetic polymers with similar chemical accuracy. However, despite progress on the control over the primary structure, the controlled folding and assembly of synthetic polymers into a predetermined 3D shape, via intramolecular interactions, has essentially not been achieved so far.

In this context, we propose a research program aiming at:

- developing efficient and scalable synthetic routes for the synthesis of monodisperse, long and stereo-controlled sequencedefined polymers comprising structuring groups and functional moieties;

- experimentally characterizing and predictively modelling the different levels of three-dimensional structure of these polymer chains;

-  demonstrating the relevance of this approach to attain new or improved functional properties. We more specifically target systems with a higher catalytic efficiency, or a better underwater adhesion, or an improved molecular recognition for detection and sensing, or a stronger innate immune killing of cancer cells.