The development of new polymer compositions and polymers with novel properties is key to the future development of medical devices. Scientific advances, such as those described in this NSF sponsored research, will support US industries, which play an important role in this medical polymers market estimated to exceed $3.5 billion by 2018. With NSF funding, the PI (Grinstaff) and his team will design, synthesize, and evaluate a novel class of natural metabolite-based, non-toxic, and biodegradable polymeric materials. NSF funding will be used to support undergraduate students and graduate students, who will benefit from an interdisciplinary cutting-edge research and educational experience that encompasses training in biomaterials and polymer chemistry. Students will be encouraged to think independently and creatively while recognizing the importance of collaborating with other experts (e.g., materials scientists, pathologist, biomedical engineers, and patent lawyers). These activities will contribute to positive societal outcomes by fostering excitement for basic research while educating and training a future workforce.
In the biomaterials and biomedical field, degradable polymers such as poly(lactic acid) and poly(glycolic acid) are widely studied and are an integral component of many medical device products. Although extensively used, these poly(hydroxy acid)s possess a number of limitations including: 1) limited capability for backbone functionalization; 2) acidic products upon degradation; and 3) poor control over molecular weight and dispersity. Consequently, there is significant need for new polymeric biomaterials that are amenable to facile modification, multiple processing or manufacturing methods, and controlled degradation without the generation of a local acidic environment. With NSF funding, the PI (Grinstaff) and his team will design, synthesize, and evaluate a novel class of natural metabolite-based, non-toxic, and biodegradable polymeric materials based on a polycarbonate of glycerol. The activities in this highly interdisciplinary and cutting-edge research environment will also afford educated and trained undergraduate and graduate students for employment in industry and academia.