Break | AIChE


Nature has provided us with a blueprint to overcome gaps in our biomedical arsenal, whether for sensing, actuating or providing therapeutic advances. Nowhere is this more evident than in nature’s most abundant “life” forms – viruses, including bacteriophages. We have exploited various molecular machines in bacteriophages to sense and/or kill human pathogens, thereby providing new routes to biosensors, therapeutics and disinfectants. The modularity of biological macromolecules drives biological evolution, enables new functions to emerge, and improves existing functions. Unfortunately, viruses often exploit us, as we are now all too aware given SARS-CoV-2 and the tragic loss of life and economic destruction caused by COVID-19. We have once again turned to nature’s vast arsenal of biomolecules to target viruses, including coronaviruses, among other human pathogens. This includes the use of the anticoagulant heparin, which possesses extraordinary binding to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and heparin/heparan sulfate analogs and other functional polysaccharides that possess exceptional binding without anticoagulation. In this manner, we have uncovered an Achilles heel of many viral pathogens and identify new routes to bring them under control. We have taken cues from nature to design biological molecules and endow them with unique structural and functional properties. The resulting biomolecular designs enable new uses for functional biomolecules, as well as new bioprocess technologies.