Protein-polymer conjugates are created either by covalently attaching synthetic polymers to proteins or by growing polymers directly from the protein surface. The latter is known as a “grafting-from” approach, which takes advantage of radical polymerization techniques, either atom-transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) or reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT). The grafting-from approach is beneficial when a dense polymer coating around the protein is desired; however, major challenges in synthesis, characterization, and application have prevented the widespread use of protein-polymer conjugates.
The societal impacts of protein-polymer conjugates are apparent in the therapeutics sector, but have been virtually nonexistent in other industries, such as biofuel or agrochemical production. The current limitations of these complex materials and ways to overcome them are discussed in the September AIChE Journal Perspective article, “Next Generation Protein-Polymer Conjugates,” by Alan J. Russell (Carnegie Mellon Univ.) and coworkers.
Polymers are attached to proteins to modulate their biologic activities while adding new functionalities. The possible combinations of proteins and polymers that can be used to create different protein-polymer conjugate variants are virtually...
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