Discovery of Bio-instructive Materials

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
The FUNG Auditorium
Morgan Alexander

Professor of Biomedical Surfaces

The School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham

Discovery of Bio-instructive Materials


Materials that have been chosen largely on the basis of their availability and mechanical properties, rather than for positive interactions with surrounding cells and tissues, dominate the range of biomaterials found in the clinic today. It would be desirable to design our way forward from this situation to new and better biomaterials. Unfortunately our understanding of the interface between materials and biology is poor, with only isolated cases where a good understanding of cell-material interactions can be cited and fewer still where material-tissue interactions are well characterized and understood. This paucity of information on the mechanism of biomaterial interactions within the body acts as a roadblock to rational design. Consequently we have taken a high throughput screening approach to discover new bio-instructive materials from large chemical libraries of synthetic monomers- this approach can be described as engineering serendipitous discovery.[1] These new candidate synthetic biomaterials provide a starting point for development of new medical devices, cell manufacturing substrates and drug delivery vehicles. The cell-response data from diverse material libraries provide opportunity to study material-cell interaction mechanisms, and provides information to tackle the rational design roadblock. The role of surface biomolecules is key to the cellular control achieved and is investigated using surface proteomics and other mass spectrometric metabolite characterization approaches.[2] Although these are new materials not yet licensed for use in man, their fully synthetic and simple polymeric nature offers lower regulatory and manufacturing barriers compared to more complex strategies involving biomolecules. We use a polymer micro array screening approach to identify bio-instructive materials in the discovery of polymers with application in expansion of pluripotent human embryonic stem cells and the identification of substrates on which to mature cardiomyocytes.[3-5] Materials resisting bacterial attachment and biofilm have also been identified, with early data emerging from on-going work on the their mechanism of biofilm formation resistance.[6] Our most recent screening campaigns use macrophage polarization to identify bio-instructive materials with pro- and anti-inflammatory characteristics with potential in modulating the human immune system in novel devices.[7] We are expanding our methodologies to screening of libraries containing engineered topography and 3D architectures.


Morgan Alexander is Professor of Biomedical Surfaces, the Director of the EPSRC Programme Grant in Next Generation Biomaterials Discovery and a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. He received his BSc in Materials (1988) and his PhD from the same department at The University of Sheffield in 1992. Summary: His work involves developing materials for application in human healthcare and characterising relationships between surface structure and biological properties. Understanding these relationships is critical to the development of next generation biomaterials and it is the theme running through his group's work across a variety of areas spanning control of bacterial adhesion, to engineering cell response for application in medical devices and cell manufacture.