Our hydrogel project is recognised on this year’s “Top 100 List” by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences

On May 10th, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) published their selection of projects “deemed to have great potential to benefit through commercialisation, business and method development, or societal impact.” The list has a different theme each year, and for 2022 the theme was “technology in the service of humanity.”

In February this year, we submitted our biomaterials-focussed project GlycoLink for consideration for inclusion on the list, and we are delighted to be one of the 70 projects the IVA has chosen to highlight. This is a project I have been working on for a long time, since I first observed an unusual binding interaction while testing protein activity on microbial polysaccharides. In late 2019, I was awarded funding by Formas, the Swedish national research council for sustainable development, and at the time of that award I was interviewed by the popular science magazine Extrakt (article in Swedish is at this link, my approximate translation into English is at this link).

In 2020, I used the Formas award to recruit Mengshu Hao as a post-doctoral fellow, and she has been working on this project full-time since the autumn of that year. Mengshu is, like me, a biochemist by training, and it has been a learning curve for both of us to pursue this line of biomaterials research, but Mengshu has made a tremendous effort to advance our understanding of the hydrogels we can produce. We have benefitted from collaboration with Qi Zhou and Salla Koskela of KTH, who have helped us to start a detailed rheological study of our gels, and who are co-applicants on our first patent application (submitted November 2021). We have also been working closely with Johan Larsbrink and Scott Mazurkewich of Chalmers University, Gothenburg to investigate the three-dimensional structures of our binding proteins.

We are currently working on two manuscripts that we plan to publish as soon as possible, describing the binding proteins we have discovered, and their exploitable polysaccharide interactions. We also plan for further collaborations with scientists at KTH and Stockholm University to respectively explore the polymer chemistry and biochemistry of our system. I look forward to being able to share the data from this project with you, both in publications and at conferences. I was happy to be able to share some information on the project at the recent Treesearch Progress 2022 event held in Kolmården, Sweden, which was also the first conference that our group could attend together post-Covid.

Photograph taken by Ioanna Sapouna at the 2022 Treesearch Progress event. Image shows Lauren McKee presenting a slide entitled “New protein cross-linkers for polysaccharide hydrogel formation.”

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