MSE Research Project Database

Enzyme Mimicry: new catalysis inspired by nature

Project Leader: Luke Connal
Collaborators: Craig Hawker (UCSB)
Primary Contact: Luke Connal (
Keywords: biotechnology; macromolecular science; nanotechnology; polymeric materials; Soft Matter
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering,Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences

Enzymes are amazing biomolecules that control complex functions from digestion in mammals to photosynthesis in plants. If we could replicate even a small portion of these remarkable macromolecules, we could design new and paradigm-shifting technologies. This project will develop enzyme mimicry technologies that imitate the chemistry of biology’s catalysts. These materials could be designed for a number of applications which include low temperature detergents, renewable production of biodiesel, and anti-bacterial coatings that stem the spread of disease.

This project will investigate synthetic analogues that mimic the chemistry and complex nano environments of enzymes. The below Figure shows some of the unique aspects of enzyme mimics. For example, they can be designed to contain multiple active sites, they have higher stability and less expensive than enzymes.

The research will be interdisciplinary in nature; the student will develop skills in biochemistry, organic and synthetic nanochemistry to develop engineering solutions for applications in renewable energy, detergents and coatings. This project is in collaborations with top researchers at University of California Santa Barbara, and industry in the UK.