Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials that Interact with Host Biology

Friday, September 29, 2017 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
The FUNG Auditorium
Ester Kwon

Assistant Professor of Bioengineering

University of California, San Diego

Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials that Interact with Host Biology


Recent advances in nanoscale materials that possess emergent physical properties and molecular organization hold great promise to impact human health in the diagnostic and therapeutic arenas. In order to be effective, nanomaterials need to navigate the complex tissue architectures of the host and traffic to relevant biological structures, such as diseased or pathogenic cells. Inspired by nature, I use peptides to transfer biological trafficking properties to synthetic nanomaterials to achieve targeted delivery of payloads. I will discuss the development of diagnostic and therapeutic nanoscale technology platforms for application to three outstanding health problems. These include cancer detection, bacterial infections, and traumatic brain injury. In each technology, peptides are assembled on a nanoscale material and encode biological function to diagnose or treat disease. This framework for constructing nanomaterials that leverage bio-inspired molecules to traffic diagnostic and therapeutic payloads can be applied broadly to solve problems in human health. 


Dr. Kwon earned her B.S. in Bioengineering and B.A. in Molecular & Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. She went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Bioengineering with Prof. Suzie H. Pun where she engineered polymeric nanoparticles grafted with peptides for the delivery of plasmid DNA into the central nervous system. After gaining expertise in synthesizing peptide-based nanomaterials, she was interested in how materials interact in living organisms, especially in physiologically relevant disease models. To fulfil this goal, she pursued postdoctoral research at MIT in the laboratory of Prof. Sangeeta N. Bhatia where she engineered several nanomaterial scaffolds for application to cancer, bacterial infections, and traumatic brain injury. In her own lab, she is interested in engineering nanoscale tools, diagnostics, and treatments for diseases of the central nervous system. Dr. Kwon is dedicated to creating an inclusive research community through the support and mentorship of trainees. She will be teaching undergraduate and graduate level coursework in the areas of mass transport, biomaterials, and nanotechnology.