This research will employ principles of multiphase block copolymer assembly to delineate the parameter space that defines the structures, stabilities and release properties of a family of new block copolybisphosphonate-small molecule nanostructures. Phosphonate groups are well-known to complex strongly to a myriad of substrates including metals, metal oxides, hydroxyapatite (bone), tooth enamel, and cationic drugs. Thus, multiphase copolymers containing blocks with ammonium phosphonate pendant groups will be synthesized with an emphasis on controlled block molecular weights and architectures and they will be complexed with low molecular weight cargo molecules with complementary charges to form nanostructures. Research will focus on developing relationships among their chemical compositions, block architectures, nanostructure sizes, shapes, charge, colloidal stabilities and release characteristics. The knowledge gained will impact our understanding of the roles of electrostatic complexation and polymer morphology relative to formation and release of a wide variety of polymeric drug delivery complexes. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research at the interface of polymer science and biological sciences. Their work will be integrated into the diverse, broader nanoscience team in the Institute for Critical Technologies and Applied Sciences at VA Tech.


Dramatic progress in pharmaceutical sciences and molecular biology since the 1970s now provides a myriad of therapeutic molecules with potential for treating diseases and correcting genetic defects. The key challenge to realize the benefits of these molecules lies in their safe and effective delivery to the appropriate tissue and cell. Advances in the molecular engineering of soft materials represent a leading solution to realize the progress and investments heretofore made. This project introduces a family of block copolymers containing strongly-complexing polyphosphonate anions that can be transformed into nanostructures with potential for encapsulating, protecting, then releasing a wide variety of drugs that have complementary cationic charge. Students will learn to design and synthesize block copolymers and prepare nanostructures, and they will work within a broader team to better understand the properties of their new materials that can benefit society. The project incorporates an intense effort to recruit and sustain a diverse group of students at all levels.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Andrew J. Lovinger
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United States
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