Prof. Andreas Herrmann of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials at the University of Groningen has been awarded a prestigious NWO Vici grant of € 1.5 M. The Vici grants are the most substantial grants in the NWO Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. The subsidy is directed at promising young researchers who have completed their doctorate less than 15 years ago and who have shown that they have the ability to successfully develop their own innovative lines of research.
Prof. Herrmann holds a chair for Polymer Chemistry and Bioengineering at the University of Groningen. His research group deals with engineered biomacromolecules or bioorganic hybrid structures for various medical and technological applications. The Vici grant was awarded to further develop hybrid materials consisting of nucleic acids and synthetic molecules like polymers.
In recent years DNA has become a useful building block in the field of nanotechnology. Thanks to its microscopic scale, geometric properties and molecular recognition properties, beautiful and complex nanostructures have been constructed from DNA. However, these miniaturized objects still lack functionality which is the reason that so far almost no applications in our macroscopic world were realized.
Through the research program of the Vici grant, this situation will change. There are plans to construct membranes and containers from nucleic acids that react to various external signals. Based on these properties, smart drug delivery vehicles and ultrasensitive diagnostic devices will be fabricated. The key element is the combination of biological and synthetic building blocks to improve existing, or to evolve completely new functionalities. These efforts will lay the ground to further employ DNA in material science and realize technological applications in the field of biomedicine that are completely unrelated to the natural role of DNA as a carrier for genetic information.
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