University of Delaware professor Kristi Kiick is currently developing a range of novel hydrogels in order to improve the treatment of cardiovascular conditions as well as the delivery of antibodies to protect against toxins. The polymers that comprise the hydrogels are engineered to regulate the rate of drug delivery and to protect the therapeutic molecules from degrading before reaching their destination.
For her work, Kiick, a professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering, will receive the 2013 Academic Research Award at the Delaware BioScience Association’s (Delaware Bio) annual awards gala on May 22. Given annually, the award recognizes significant contributions to the advancement of life science research at an academic or medical research institution in Delaware.
In his nomination letter, Karl Steiner, UD senior associate provost for research development, referred to Kiick as one of “the best and brightest” and a “true leader on campus and beyond.”
“Kristi is a pioneer in biopolymeric hydrogels and she is collaborating with numerous partners across Delaware and beyond to develop these materials, which are based on polymers and resilin, for cardiovascular and protein delivery applications,” Steiner said.
When automotive engineers want to create a new car, they don’t build thousands of prototypes. Instead, they create computer models and run simulations for performance, efficiency and desirability before a model is selected for fabrication.
University of Delaware materials science professors Darrin Pochan and Kristi Kiick are taking a similar approach to building new nanomaterials from biomolecules — namely peptides and proteins — that could increase the efficiency of photovoltaics, also known as solar cells, and other electronic devices.
Collaborating with Jeffrey Saven, professor of physical and biological chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, Pochan and Kiick are working to develop useful protein-like molecules that can easily be scaled up into complicated nanomaterials for industrial applications.
Two collaborative research projects have been selected for funding under a six-year partnership agreement that includes the University of Delaware, the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology (CMB) and the state of Delaware. The two-year grants total $400,000 to support work to be conducted at UD and Fraunhofer.
Kristi Kiick, professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering at UD, is leading a project to develop and demonstrate the ability of engineered polymer gels to increase the stability, immunogenicity, and/or therapeutic efficacy of proteins produced by Fraunhofer.
Kiick is collaborating with Jessica Chichester and Mark Jones at CMB on the project, which capitalizes on the capabilities of her lab in polymer matrix development and of Fraunhofer in new protein therapeutics.
In contrast to most biologicals produced today, which are grown in either bacteria or yeast, CMB uses a novel plant-based system for rapid, cost-effective production of recombinant proteins. The polymer matrices produced in Kiick’s lab will be engineered for specific functions, including protein sequestration, protein stability, slow release, or immunological presentation.
“With this combined expertise, we have the potential to develop unique formulations for a range of applications from vaccine development to toxin treatment,” Kiick says.
A one-inch long grasshopper can leap a distance of about 20 inches. Cicadas can produce sound at about the same frequency as radio waves. Fleas measuring only millimeters can jump an astonishing 100 times their height in microseconds. How do they do it? They make use of a naturally occurring protein called resilin.
Resilin is a protein in the composite structures found in the leg and wing joints, and sound producing organs of insects. Highly elastic, it responds to exceptionally high rates of speed and demonstrates unmatched resilience after being stretched or deformed.
Kristi Kiick, professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware, believes this unusual protein may also be a key to unlocking the regenerative power of certain mechanically active tissues.
Through support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Kiick research group has developed new cell-interactive resilin-like materials that have mechanical properties similar to the natural protein and that are engineered to support the growth of multiple types of cells.
Kiick has teamed with Xinqiao Jia, associate professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering, to explore the potential of these resilin-like materials for treating vocal fold disorders in humans.
Kristi Kiick, professor of materials science and engineering, has been named deputy dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering effective Aug. 1.
As deputy dean, Kiick replaces Babatunde Ogunnaike who has been appointed interim dean of engineering.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the college and look forward to working with Tunde, the faculty and staff on our research and education missions,” said Kiick, who is also associate director of UD’s biomedical engineering program.
In naming her to this new leadership role, Ogunnaike applauded Kiick’s strong interdisciplinary research and teaching credentials, which he noted “have already earned her the respect of her peers.”
“Kristi represents a new generation of true scholars. In my opinion, she is an exemplary figure worthy of emulation by the younger generation. I am delighted to add her to the college leadership team and I look forward to working with her,” said Ogunnaike.