Fellow 2021-22

Damien Guironnet

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Guironnet imageAutomated Polymer Synthesis to Accelerate Discovery

Professor Guironnet proposes to build a fully automated polymer maker. This synthesizer will be built based on two synthetic methodologies his group has pioneered for the control of polymer shape, composition and molecular weight. The goal of this macromolecule maker is to accelerate discoveries for the synthesis of polymers mimicking the astonishing functions achieved by biopolymers (e.g., DNA, polypeptide, polysaccharide). From a broad perspective, biopolymers’ specificities are enabled by the localization of a few chemical functionalities into a complex and precise spatial arrangement. Advances spanning multiple research fields have resulted in the establishment of atomistic structure-function relationships governing biopolymers.

Despite the depth of this knowledge, current polymerization methods fall short of matching the 3-dimensional molecular geometry of biopolymers. Therefore, mimicking most of the functions achieved by biopolymers (e.g., catalysis by enzymes) with synthetic polymer remains impossible today. The methodologies developed by Professor Guironnet and his lab enable, for the first time, the control of molecular geometry of synthetic polymers. The combination of these methodologies with the high throughput achieved by the proposed automated synthesizer will empower them to synthesize and investigate the functions of many polymers with precise and tunable 3D structures. Achieving catalytic activity with synthetic enzymes would represent an exceptional tour-de-force and open new possibilities in biomimicry.