News

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Welcome to the newest Reineke Group members! Left to right: Dr. Ruma Ghosh (postdoc Chemistry); Jackson Cleveland, first-year graduate student (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science); Miles Willis, first-year graduate student (Chemistry); and Dr. Sonashree (postdoc Chemistry).

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Nick Kreofsky attended the 2023 Fall ACS Meeting and presented his research poster at both the Sci-Mix and PMSE/POLY joint poster sessions. PMSE officers and the Executive Committee selected Nick’s poster as a PMSE Best Poster Winner. The title of his research poster was “Cinchona Alkaloid Polymers Demonstrate Highly Efficient Gene Delivery Dependent on Stereochemistry, Methoxy Substitution, and Length.” See below for a description of his research project. Congratulations to Nick!

Summary

Nicholas’ research focuses on the utilization of cinchona alkaloid natural products to create highly efficient polymers for nucleic acid delivery. Nucleic acid therapies are a rapidly developing field of medicine with the potential to treat, cure, and/or prevent a multitude of diseases. To enable these treatments to reach their fullest potential, effective, scalable delivery vehicles for the genetic material must be discovered. Quinine and other cinchona alkaloids are an attractive target towards this end as they can more effectively bind and deliver genetic material owing to their ability to bind via both electrostatics and intercalation. Current work focuses on evaluating structure-activity relationships for cinchona alkaloid polymers to better understand their efficacy. The findings suggest that these polymers are especially sensitive to molar mass, with longer chains outperforming shorter chains in every biological hurdle. Additionally, the methoxy group found on some of the cinchona alkaloids plays a critical role in the binding of polymers to DNA. Lastly, stereochemistry was found to be a fine-tuning handle to modulate performance.

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In addition to presenting their research, Reineke group members also had opportunities to visit and catch up with alumni from the Reineke Group.

Photo (left to right): Nicholas Kreofsky, Dr. Jeffrey Ting (alumni), Emily Prebihalo, Christopher LaSalle, Dr. Monica Ohnsorg (alumni), Nathan Rackstraw, Dr. Soumi Das, and Dr. Rishad Dalal (alumni).

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The 2023 Fall ACS Meeting was held August 13 – 17 in San Francisco, CA. Six members of the Reineke Group presented their research at the meeting. The presenters were Dr. Soumi Das, Dr. Jaeheon Kim, Nicholas Kreofsky, Christopher LaSalle, Emily Prebihalo, and Nathan Rackstraw. See below for information on their research presentations and a cool scientific item that each of the group members learned during the conference.

The photo is of Reineke Group members and alumni (front to back): Dr. Monica Ohnsorg (alumni), Dr. Rishad Dalal (alumni), Emily Prebihalo, Dr. Soumi Das, Nathan Rackstraw, Nicholas Kreofsky, Dr. Jaeheon Kim, and Christopher LaSalle. The group members and alumni attended a presentation by Prof. Reineke.

Soumi

Research Presentation Title

Learning the Shapes: Self-Assembling Cellobiose-based Glycolipids into Mesoscale Network Materials

1) Describe the opportunity or problem that you are focusing on for your research and its relevance.

Soumi focuses on getting insight into the self-assembly of glycolipids, which is important in understanding many biological processes as well as designing novel materials.

2) Describe your current research and how it will impact, benefit, or advance the identified opportunity or problem.

Soumi performed an in-depth study of the self-assembly of cellobiose-based glycolipids and identified the molecular architecture that produces some highly stabilized network structures having diverse applications in therapeutic delivery as well as designing useful materials.

3) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

Constructive discussion is most important in motivating as well as driving novel scientific innovation.

Jaeheon

Research Presentation Title

Sustainable and Green Derivatization of Cellulose under Heterogeneous Slurry and Homogeneous Solution Conditions

1) Describe the opportunity or problem that you are focusing on for your research and its relevance.

Jaeheon is developing a more sustainable and greener cellulose functionalization. His focus is on the role of heterogeneous slurry and homogeneous solution conditions. 

2) Describe your current research and how it will impact, benefit, or advance the identified opportunity or problem.

Jaeheon and Nathan performed an in-depth study of the cellulose etherification process with glycidol and allyl glycidyl ether. We identified that the heterogeneous slurry condition was effective for the etherification with glycidol, while the homogeneous solution condition was effective for the etherification with allyl glycidyl ether. This will impact how to design the reaction environment of the cellulose etherification.

3) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

I learned about a new cellulose solvent for homogeneous cellulose derivatization from a research group in Germany.

Nick

Research Presentation Title

Cinchona Alkaloid Polymers Demonstrate Highly Efficient Gene Delivery Dependent on Stereochemistry, Methoxy Substitution, and Length

Summary

Nicholas’ research focuses on the utilization of cinchona alkaloid natural products to create highly efficient polymers for nucleic acid delivery. Nucleic acid therapies are a rapidly developing field of medicine with the potential to treat, cure, and/or prevent a multitude of diseases. To enable these treatments to reach their fullest potential, effective, scalable delivery vehicles for the genetic material must be discovered. Quinine and other cinchona alkaloids are an attractive target towards this end as they can more effectively bind and deliver genetic material owing to their ability to bind via both electrostatics and intercalation. Current work focuses on evaluating structure-activity relationships for cinchona alkaloid polymers to better understand their efficacy. The findings suggest that these polymers are especially sensitive to molar mass, with longer chains outperforming shorter chains in every biological hurdle. Additionally, the methoxy group found on some of the cinchona alkaloids plays a critical role in the binding of polymers to DNA. Lastly, stereochemistry was found to be a fine-tuning handle to modulate performance.

1) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

I learned that hydrogels can be used to deliver naked pDNA to cells without the use of a delivery vehicle, and thus the toxic effects of the delivery agent can be avoided.

Christopher

Research Presentation Title

Degradable and Tunable Polycarbonate Scaffold from Cyclic Carbonates with Pendant Secondary Alkenes

1) Describe the opportunity or problem that you are focusing on for your research and its relevance.

Chris is developing a library of cationic polymers for gene delivery using more sustainable sources with a degradable backbone to enhance delivery and uptake of the payload.  

2) Describe your current research and how it will impact, benefit, or advance the identified opportunity or problem.

This work will enhance the field since polymeric vectors for gene delivery suffer in efficiency as compared to viral vectors. The carbonate backbone can enhance the release of the genetic material and will degrade into nontoxic components increasing the therapeutic's overall efficacy.

3) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

I learned that there is no biological species that can produce the azide moiety. However, there are a couple of species that can synthesize a derivative of it, and current enzyme engineering is ongoing to understand and potentially modify the synthesis to allow for the more sustainable production of azides.

Emily

Research Presentation Title

Sugar-derived Thiol-ene Thermoset Networks Via Greener Synthetic Routes

1) Describe the opportunity or problem that you are focusing on for your research and its relevance.

Emily synthesizes network materials made from bio-derived feedstocks and studies their mechanical properties and possible degradation at their end-of-life.

2) Describe your current research and how it will impact, benefit, or advance the identified opportunity or problem.

Thermoset networks based on the natural products isosorbide and terpenes show no unwanted coloration, interesting mechanical behavior, and promising degradation under basic conditions.

3) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

I learned about a new universal dynamic crosslinker being studied at NREL that shows promise for upcycling polyolefins.

Nathan

Research Presentation Title

Fundamental Insights into Cellulose Etherification with Glycidol for Aqueous Rheology Modification

1) Describe the opportunity or problem that you are focusing on for your research and its relevance.

Nathan designs processes for cellulose functionalization that are more efficient and less hazardous than the industry standards.

2) Describe your current research and how it will impact, benefit, or advance the identified opportunity or problem.

Nathan and Jaeheon performed an in-depth study of the patented cellulose etherification process and identified the most important reaction parameters, which allowed them to design new cellulose ethers for the personal care industry.

3) One cool scientific item that you learned about while attending the conference.

I learned about a new cellulose solvent for homogeneous cellulose derivatization from a research group in Germany.