The project “Superantibodies” encompasses an interdisciplinary approach to accomplish the first instance of a biohybrid, yet fully synthetic three dimensional recognition element by converging the benefits of natural biorecognition with those of a synthetic approach. The bio-inspired concept is modelled on the antibody binding site whose binding capacity is the result of a defined three-dimensional structure in which loops of polypeptides cooperatively interact with the antigen through specific biomolecular interactions. The project implements a combination of modern biomolecular and bioanalytical techniques to identify peptides within these structures that are pivotal for the interaction with the antigen, and to use organic chemistry to synthetically mimic these peptides whilst maintaining their biological function. Affinity driven self-assembly between these peptides and their specific antigen is used to produce templates for a subsequent molecular imprinting process, resulting in a site-specific integration of peptides into the structural backbone of a molecularly imprinted polymer. It is hypothesised that it will be possible to rationally engineer recognition elements with tailored affinities by changing the number and the type of the embedded peptides to rationally create structures whose affinity can outperform that of naturally derived antibodies. This proposal is built on the expertises and scientific strengths of Dr Heiko Andresen while taking him in new directions. The multidisciplinary group of Dr Molly Stevens provides a fertile environment for the scientific and professional development of the applicant, and Imperial’s infrastructures and dedication to high-quality professional and personal career development strongly support Dr Andresen in reaching a position of professional maturity. The project proposal is in line with aims and policy objectives of the FP7, with particular high relevance for the theme-crossing FP7 initiative ‘NanoMedicine’.
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