Chemical biology

Biotechnology Group

Members of the Biotechnology Group posing for a photo.The Leicester Biotechnology Group is a sub-group of the Chemical Biology research group within the Department of Chemistry. Our expertise in this area has been built up over 25 years, and maintained through links with numerous companies from across the globe, engaged in the manufacture of diagnostic devices and polymers.

We use the technique of molecular imprinting to prepare polymeric materials with molecular recognition properties. Molecular imprinting describes the process of creating artificial molecular recognition sites in a functional synthetic polymer by the process of forming said polymer in the presence of a template. Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are capable of selective recognition and binding of their target species in the template-derived sites. Molecular imprinting of polymers represents the most generic, versatile, scalable and cost-effective approach to the creation of synthetic molecular receptors devised to date.

We use molecular modelling to probe the interactions between candidate monomers and template species in order to select monomers by computational design. We have developed new methods for the automated synthesis of MIP nanoparticles compatible with industrial manufacturing processes. The materials are stable to extremes of temperature, pH, pressure and organic solvents and therefore much more robust than their biological counterparts (antibodies, enzymes etc.). MIPs have applications in diagnostics (sensors and assays), in separations, in catalysis and as biologically active species. It is our ultimate aim to show that MIPs can form the basis of new classes of therapeutics. Our expertise in this area has been built up over 25 years, and maintained through links with numerous companies from across the globe, engaged in the manufacture of diagnostic devices and polymers.

Research interests

  • Bioanalytical chemistry - design of sensors and assays for clinical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and analysis of foodstuffs
  • Functional (smart) materials, polymers and MIPs
  • Computational design and molecular modelling
  • Biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals
  • Nanoparticles for diagnostics and therapeutic applications

Biological applications of MIPs

  • Modifying bacteria-bacteria signalling (quorum sensing) pathways
  • Activation or inhibition of enzymes
  • Modifying protein-protein interactions
  • Detection and quantification of biomolecules, drugs etc
  • Isolation of high-value bioactives from plant extracts
  • In vitro and in vivo cell-labelling, drug-delivery and sensing
  • Robust and sensitive assays with MIPs replacing antibodies
  • Sensors and diagnostic devices based on MIPs
  • Cell and tissue recognition

Other applications of MIPs

  • As protecting groups and catalyst in synthesis
    Selective solid-phase extraction materials for sample preparation
    Control of crystallisation

Techniques used

  • Surface Plasmon Resonance (Biacore)
  • Dynamic light scattering (Nanosizer)
  • Molecular modelling and computational design (SYBYL™)
  • Solid-phase synthesis of MIP nanoparticles
  • Polymer chemistry
  • Monomer and initiator design and synthesis
  • Plasma deposition
  • Advanced chromatography
  • UV, Fluorescent (including 3-D) and IR spectroscopy/microscopy
  • Surface characterisation (contact angle measurements) and porosimetry
  • Biosensors

Representative research articles and reviews

  • Poma, A.; Guerreiro, A.; Caygill, S.; Moczko, E.; Piletsky, S., Automatic reactor for solid-phase synthesis of molecularly imprinted polymeric nanoparticles (MIP NPs) in water. RSC Advances, 2014, 4 (8), 4203-4206. DOI: 10.1039/C3RA46838K
  • Chianella, I.; Guerreiro, A.; Moczko, E.; Caygill, J. S.; Piletska, E. V.; De Vargas Sansalvador, I. M. P.; Whitcombe, M. J.; Piletsky, S. A., Direct Replacement of Antibodies with Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Nanoparticles in ELISA - Development of a Novel Assay for Vancomycin. Analytical Chemistry, 2013, 85 (17), 8462-8468. DOI: 10.1021/ac402102j
  • Moczko, E.; Guerreiro, A.; Piletska, E.; Piletsky, S., PEG-Stabilized Core-Shell Surface-Imprinted Nanoparticles. Langmuir, 2013, 29 (31), 9891-9896. DOI: 10.1021/la401891f
  • Moczko, E.; Poma, A.; Guerreiro, A.; Perez de Vargas Sansalvador, I.; Caygill, S.; Canfarotta, F.; Whitcombe, M. J.; Piletsky, S., Surface-modified multifunctional MIP nanoparticles. Nanoscale, 2013, 5 (9), 3733-3741. DOI: 10.1039/C3NR00354J
  • Poma, A.; Guerreiro, A.; Whitcombe, M. J.; Piletska, E. V.; Turner, A. P. F.; Piletsky, S. A., Solid-Phase Synthesis of Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Nanoparticles with a Reusable Template-"Plastic Antibodies". Advanced Functional Materials, 2013, 23 (22), 2821-2827. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201202397
  • Ivanova-Mitseva, P. K.; Guerreiro, A.; Piletska, E. V.; Whitcombe, M. J.; Zhou, Z.; Mitsev, P. A.; Davis, F.; Piletsky, S. A., Cubic Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Nanoparticles with a Fluorescent Core. Angewandte Chemie International Editition, 2012, 51 (21), 5196-5199. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201107644
  • Piletska, E. V.; Burns, R.; Terry, L. A.; Piletsky, S. A., Application of a Molecularly Imprinted Polymer for the Extraction of Kukoamine A from Potato Peels. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012, 60 (1), 95-99. DOI: 10.1021/jf203669b
  • Piletska, E. V.; Stavroulakis, G.; Larcombe, L. D.; Whitcombe, M. J.; Sharma, A.; Primrose, S.; Robinson, G. K.; Piletsky, S. A., Passive Control of Quorum Sensing: Prevention of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilm Formation by Imprinted Polymers. Biomacromolecules, 2011, 12 (4), 1067-1071. DOI: 10.1021/bm101410q
  • Whitcombe, M. J.; Chianella, I.; Larcombe, L.; Piletsky, S. A.; Noble, J.; Porter, R.; Horgan, A., The rational development of molecularly imprinted polymer-based sensors for protein detection. Chemical Society Reviews, 2011, 40 (3), 1547-1571. DOI: 10.1039/C0CS00049C
  • Poma, A.; Turner, A. P. F.; Piletsky, S. A., Advances in the manufacture of MIP nanoparticles. Trends in Biotechnology, 2010, 28 (12), 629-637. DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2010.08.006
  • Karim, K.; Breton, F.; Rouillon, R.; Piletska, E. V.; Guerreiro, A.; Chianella, I.; Piletsky, S. A., How to find effective functional monomers for effective molecularly imprinted polymers? Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2005, 57 (12), 1795-1808. DOI: 10.1016/j.addr.2005.07.013
  • Mayes, A. G.; Whitcombe, M. J., Synthetic strategies for the generation of molecularly imprinted organic polymers. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2005, 57 (12), 1742-1778. DOI: 10.1016/j.addr.2005.07.011

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