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Nanyang Technological University, Centre for Biomimetic Sensor Science

Research Techno Plaza, 50 Nanyang Dr, Singapore 637553 Singapore

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RESEARCH

We embrace the scientific vision of bench to bedside and recognize the need to address the critical health problems with solutions readily translatable to the real world. Three ideas shape our research choices and design methodologies:

Time is limited.

Cost is a reality.

Simple is better.

Our Research Foundation

In order to study complex biological phenomena, we follow a four-step strategy. The steps are:

  • Select the eminent human health problem

  • Design platform for detection of the target interaction

  • Perform fundamental characterization in order to understand interaction parameters and solve the problem

  • Translate knowledge into biomedical applications

Once an important human health problem is identified, it is often challenging for the engineer to directly characterize parameters within a biological system. A simplified model can be developed to mimic important parameters of the biological system. Fundamental characterization of the target interaction in this model system can identify the interaction parameters. The mechanism of the biological interactions can be determined by changing these parameters in a systematic fashion aimed at determining the underlying mechanism. Once the mechanism is understood, direct-acting strategies can be developed to solve the biological problem. We can translate this fundamental knowledge into biomedical applications.

Core Projects

We have developed a new platform technology known as the solvent-assisted lipid bilayer (SALB) method to fabricate supported lipid bilayers. It is based on lipid self-assembly upon exchange from organic to aqueous solvent. The approach is quick, easy to implement, and compatible with a wide range of lipid compositions and material supports.

This highly versatile approach to fabricate high-quality supported lipid bilayers involves the deposition of quasi-two-dimensional lamellar, bicellar disks that are composed of a mixture of long-chain and short-chain phospholipids. We explore the use of bicellar mixtures as tools for model membrane fabrication and study mechanistic details behind the bicelle-mediated bilayer fabrication process.

The development of simplified model systems that mimic important properties of biological membranes can lead to a clearer understanding of membrane-associated biological processes. At the heart of such systems is the lipid vesicle, which can either be used intact to model curved biological membranes or to form supported lipid bilayers.

We adopt a materials engineering approach to understanding how the conformational stability of proteins in solution can impact protein adsorption using state-of-the-art characterization techniques. Our studies are aimed at improving surface passivation along with a wide range of other biological-related applications.

Complement-activation related pseudoallergy (CARPA) is a potentially lethal acute immune toxicity caused by many intravenous drugs that contain nanoparticles or proteins. The integration of our group’s biomimetic membrane platform with state-of-the-art surface-based characterization tools has led to a promising new approach for real-time monitoring and better understanding of the complement activation process.

The engineering strategies developed and employed by our group to study biointerfacial science topics are being adopted to address outstanding needs in molecular virology. Based on engineering frameworks, we have a dedicated research effort on peptide-based antiviral drug development. Another emerging thrust is the creation of functional diagnostics for viral surveillance.

With the growing challenges of drug-resistant bacteria and the need for new classes of antibiotics,  we are developing various classes of nanostructured antibacterial agents for healthcare and biotechnology applications. Using our engineering strategies, we explore their potential as next-generation antibacterial solutions while gaining mechanistic insights.

Pollen represents one of nature’s most durable materials, which can be easily obtained at low cost. We explore pollen as a natural alternative to polymer synthesis and focus our research on pollen processing and utilizing pollen-based materials in various fields such as drug delivery, food technology, tissue engineering, and beyond.

The creation of artificial organ tissues with human-like cellular functionality has been hampered by the complex, three-dimensional architecture of the human liver. We pursue a combination of microfabrication and nanotechnology approaches to overcome this challenge using mainly polymer hydrogel scaffolds. We also explore the potential of other bioinspired materials as alternative scaffold options.

Determining the size and distribution of colloidal systems with nanometer-scale precision is crucial for various nanobiotechnology applications. We focus on refining the data analysis method associated with nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA), which measures the diffusion coefficient of particles in a sample in order to determine their size distribution.

We employ scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to noninvasively scan the surface of biological membrane mimics and live cells to investigate biological interactions at the membrane interface under physiologically relevant conditions with nanometer resolution. These imaging capabilities are unmet by other analytical techniques available today.

With a strong understanding of biological processes at the membrane interface, we develop novel biosensing platforms for the detection of cancer biomarkers by focusing on the design of smart biological interfaces, which comprise a supported lipid bilayer as a critical component linking the substrate and the target recognition element.