ChEMS Seminar: Bioinspired Materials and Devices

Engineering Hall 2430 Colloquia Room
Subbu Venkatraman (pictured), Jing Yu & Ali Miserez

School Of Materials Science and Engineering
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Abstract: Engineering of materials and devices based on structures and materials in nature has tremendous benefits. In the first segment of the seminar, we will focus on the discovery and subsequent manufacturing of bioinspired polymeric materials, including proteins. Such materials may be processed in environmentally friendly ways, and offer benefits over synthetic, petro-chemical-based polymers. In general, such materials are eco-friendly, non-toxic and their degradable products are harmless, such as amino acids in the case of protein-based biopolymers. In this talk, our pioneering efforts in establishing next-generation sequencing (RNA-Seq) in the context of biomimetic materials engineering will be described. As an example, we will specifically illustrate our efforts in deploying this platform towards the intriguing squid Sucker Ring Teeth (SRT), which are remarkable protein-based materials that can compete with the best structural synthetic polymers in terms of mechanical performance. Because of their supra-molecular assembly, SRTs exhibit thermoplastic properties (an unusual feature for a protein-based material), which can be exploited to reprocess and mold the proteins into complex shapes by simple lithographic techniques and make SRT a promising material as “bioink” for 3D bioprinting. We will also briefly introduce our effects on other biomimetic systems, such as mussel-inspired protein-based adhesives and polyelectrolyte brushes-based lubricants inspired by the lubrication of human joints.

In the second segment, a reverse process will be described: we define a medical problem in need of a solution, and engineer a device inspired by a native structure. One such example of a bioinspired solution to a long-standing medical problem will be presented. Small-diameter blood vessels are needed for bypassing blocked arteries, in the heart or in the leg; to date, no satisfactory small-diameter artificial blood vessel has been developed. This failure is largely due to mechanical misfit of the artificial prosthesis compared to native arteries. Thus, Teflon-based prostheses have been used, but get reblocked in small-diameter arteries within a year or two. We will describe a device inspired by the design of human arteries to match the dynamic and static mechanical behavior more closely, using materials that mimic elastin and collagen properties. 

Bio: Subbu Venkatraman has a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from Carnegie-Mellon University. He spent about 15 years in biomedical R&D in the USA, working with polymeric biomaterials, and held a senior position in R&D at Alza Corp. prior to joining NTU as associate professor in 2000. He has published extensively in the field of biomaterials, with a total of 225 publications, an H-index of 35 and a citation count of 5020. He also holds 88 granted patents from a total of 171 applications. Venkatraman's work in biomaterials has led to three successful spinoff companies, with one of them (Amaranth Medical) obtaining substantial Series C funding. He has received the 2014 President's Technology Award, together with Freddy Boey and Tina Wong, for their innovative application of nanostructures and a novel drug-delivery approach to combat blindness from glaucoma. Venkatraman is also the co-founder of Peregrine Ophthlamic Pte Ltd ( and Amaranth Medical Pte Ltd (

His research group is interested in designing and modifying polymers for biomedical applications. In this work, they are closely associated with local hospitals and researchers, including the National Heart Centre, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Cancer Centre. Current interests include the following:

  • Nanomedicine
  • Localized drug/gene delivery
  • Biodegradable stents and occluders
  • Hemocompatibilization of polymers

Bio: Jing Yu is an assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 2012. His doctoral research focused on the nanomechanics of biomaterials and biomimetics.Yu conducted experimental and theoreticalstudies on both mussel and gecko adhesive systems, and developed bio-inspired polymer surfaces and nano-structured materials. Following his Ph.D., Yu expanded his research interests towards polyelectrolytes brushes as a postdoctoral researcher with Matthew Tirrell at the University of Chicago. The overall goal of Jing Yu’s research is to characterize the dynamic properties of interfaces with hierarchical structures, and to gain molecular-level control of soft interfaces to enable design of integrated, multifunctional interfaces.

Bio: Ali Miserez is an associate professor in the Schools of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, with a doctorate (2003) in materials science and engineering in the field of composite materials and mechanics of materials. In 2004, he received a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship and moved to UC Santa Barbara, where he was affiliated with the Materials Department and the Marine Science Institute. At UCSB, he expanded his research interests toward biomimetic materials and biochemistry of extra-cellular tissues. He moved to NTU as an assistant professor in 2009, and in 2011 he was awarded the Singapore National Research Foundation Fellowship, a highly-competitive $3-million individual research grant for early career scientists.

Miserez’s research is centered on revealing the molecular, physico-chemical and structural principles from unique biological materials, and on translating these designs into novel biomimetic synthesis strategies. His research group is strongly cross-disciplinary with molecular biologists, chemists, bio-physicists and materials scientists combining their expertise toward bioinspired engineering from various angles, including protein biochemistry, extra-cellular tissue transcriptomic, polymer chemistry, biomimetic peptide design, biophysics and nanomechanics. In recent years, his work has appeared in both general (Science, Nature Materials, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Chemical Biology, Advanced Materials) and specialized journals (Biomacromolecules, ACS Nano, JBC, Polymer Chemistry, etc,). He has delivered numerous invited talks, including at various Gordon Research Conferences in the field of bioinspired materials and biomineralization.

Host: Alon Gorodetsky