News

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Congratulations to Kaylee for being awarded a University of Minnesota (UMN) Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF)! On April 23, 2024, the UMN Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards informed Kaylee that she had been selected — out of 191 outstanding doctoral candidates from across the University who were nominated — to receive a 2024-2025 Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. The Fellowship gives the University’s most accomplished Ph.D. candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year. The Fellowship carries a nine-month stipend of $25,000 plus a tuition benefit and an optional health insurance benefit. The Fellowship also includes a $1,000 conference presentation grant for Fellows who have been accepted to present their dissertation research at a conference.

Kaylee is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS). She is co-advised by Prof. Theresa Reineke in the Department of Chemistry and Prof. Frank Bates in CEMS. To learn about the UMN DDF click here. For information about Kaylee’s research, see the research project summary below.

Research Project Summary

Many oral active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are limited by their poor aqueous solubility in the gastrointestinal tract. Amorphous solid dispersions (ASDs) are an attractive method to disperse an amorphous API in a polymer matrix, enabling supersaturation above a drug’s crystalline solubility. In addition to solubility limitations, the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach can cause acidic hydrolysis and premature release of an API, reducing oral bioavailability. The versatile architecture of bottlebrush polymers offers a promising platform as stimuli-responsive materials.

Kaylee's research focuses on designing polymer excipients for ASD formulations with the goal of helping more oral drug candidates overcome this solubility barrier and reach the commercial market to treat diseases. She is currently focused on studying pH-responsive bottlebrush polymers given that limiting premature release and crystallization in the acidic environment of the stomach can increase the overall oral bioavailability of an API.

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Kaylee Barr attended the Spring 2024 American Chemical Society (ACS) Meeting in New Orleans, LA, and presented her research poster at both the Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Centennial Poster Session for Graduate Students and Sci-Mix. PMSE officers and the Executive Committee selected Kaylee’s poster as a PMSE Centennial Graduate Student Best Poster Winner! To read the PMSE News post, click here.

The title of Kaylee’s research poster was “Bottlebrush Polymer Excipients for Enhancing the Solubility of an Oral Drug.” A summary of her research project is provided below. As a fun side note, when Kaylee was asked to share one cool scientific item that she learned about while attending the conference she responded, “A Y-inimer can be used for orthogonal polymerization to make polyelectrolyte brushes grafted from a surface!”

Research Summary:

Many oral active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are limited by their poor aqueous solubility in the gastrointestinal tract. Amorphous solid dispersions (ASDs) are an attractive method to disperse an amorphous API in a polymer matrix, enabling supersaturation above a drug’s crystalline solubility. In addition to solubility limitations, the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach can cause acidic hydrolysis and premature release of an API, reducing oral bioavailability. The versatile architecture of bottlebrush polymers offers a promising platform as stimuli-responsive materials. It is hypothesized that poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-stat-N,N-dimethylacrylamide) [PND] bottlebrush polymers with a poly(acrylic acid) [PAA] shell will undergo an extended-to-globule conformational transition to provide drug protection from premature release in the acidic gastric environment due to both thermoresponsive and pH-responsive properties. Bottlebrush polymer excipients were synthesized using controlled polymerization techniques to study the influence of architecture and PAA content on small molecule API pH-responsive delivery. This work demonstrates that incorporation of PAA into PND bottlebrush polymers facilitates pH-responsive behavior and rapid drug release in simulated intestinal conditions.

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Congratulations to Punarbasu Roy for being selected to present his research at the Spring 2024 American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting, Division of Polymer Chemistry (POLY) “Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research Symposium”! In addition to presenting his award-winning research at the POLY Research Symposium poster session, Punarbasu presented a second research poster at the ACS Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Centennial poster session and the Sci-Mix poster session. The Spring 2024 ACS meeting was held in New Orleans, LA, March 17–21, 2024.

The titles of Punarbasu’s research posters are listed below:

Two Is Better Than One: Using Two-Component Quinine-Based Polymer Systems for Enhanced Nucleic Acid Delivery (Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research Symposium poster session)

Delivering Genes with Quinine-Based Polymers (PMSE Division Centennial and Sci-Mix poster sessions)

Punarbasu's doctoral research aims to develop quinine-based polymers that can bind and carry nucleic acids such as DNA and mRNA into the cells. His research contributes to the ongoing mission of the Reineke Group to develop polymer-mediated nucleic acid delivery as a cost-effective and safer alternative to virus-based nucleic acid carriers for gene therapy applications. At the ACS spring meeting, Punarbasu engaged in scientific discussions with ACS members from various divisions of the ACS including the POLY and PMSE Divisions. He also received great suggestions about synthesizing challenging polymer designs and improving his current library of polymers. For current and future Reineke Group members who will attend ACS meetings, Punarbasu highly recommends attending the POLY and PMSE sessions. He also encourages Reineke biopolymer group members to explore research from other ACS divisions such as the Division of Biochemical Technology (BIOT) for interdisciplinary research related to chemistry and biology.

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On March 28, 2024, Erin successfully defended her dissertation, "Recycling of 3D Printed Thermosets and Commodity Thermoplastics." Congratulations to Dr. Maines! Erin’s advisors are Prof. Christopher Ellison, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and Prof. Theresa Reineke.