Unleashing Chemical Power from Protein Sequence Space for Material Design

A central question facing the bottom-up approach toward material design is how to faithfully transfer the function at the molecular level to the material properties at the macroscopic level. In the past years, there has been a growing trend of designing functional materials with dynamically tunable properties. These ‘smart’ materials necessitate a new level of control over the structural and functional properties of macromolecules as well as their interactions with external stimuli. Although natural evolution has led to the creation of a vast number of protein molecules with extraordinary structural and functional diversity, such an ecological diversity has yet to be fully utilized to design and create macroscopic ‘smart’ materials. Taking advantage of a new category of protein chemistries—genetically encoded click chemistry, we focus on the development of protein materials through the combined use of cellular synthesis and directed assembly of recombinant protein molecules, which has led to a variety of applications ranging from tissue engineering to environmental remediation.

(Dr. Fei Sun is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Caltech from 2012 to 2014. He obtained Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the University of Chicago in 2012 and B.S. degree at Peking University in 2007 with the work recognized by several awards including Chicago Biomedical Consortium Scholar Award and The Everett E. Gilbert Memorial Prize in Organic Chemistry.)