Professor Danielle Benoit awarded NSF Grant

June 1, 2021

Headshot of Professor Danielle Benoit.

Congratulations to Professor Danielle Benoit who was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Materials Research for her project, “Next-generation PEGylation: antifouling and immunoevasion semi-randomized zwitterionic peptides.” Co-Principal Investigators on this project are Andrew White and Minsoo Kim (URMC Microbiology and Immunology). 

This project will explore the use of computationally designed peptides to enhance drug delivery systems, aligning with NSF’s mission ‘To promote the progress of science’ and ‘to advance the national health prosperity, and welfare. Nanoparticles have tremendous potential for delivering new, highly promising therapeutics to specific locations within the body, enhancing drug potency, and reducing side-effects. However, blood proteins adsorb to nanoparticles, resulting in clearance. Protein adsorption reduces the ability of nanoparticles to reach tissue targets organs and tumors. Existing materials to control nanoparticle protein adsorption are limited in number. Furthermore, they are implicated in allergy-like immune system responses after repeated exposures, which has been highlighted recently by the mRNA vaccines for COVID19. This project explores computationally designed peptides with partially randomized sequences to make a new class of diverse anti-protein adsorption options, which, through randomized design, will avoid allergic reactions and other long-term immunological side effects. These materials are expected to be versatile for multiple nanoparticle systems and will enable improved drug delivery. The research activities will be integrated with Rochester’s ongoing K-12 education and outreach efforts, including the “Teach for Teachers” program and graduate/undergraduate researcher mentorship.