TSUKUBA, Japan, Nov. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (WPI-MANA), a unit of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), had a visit from Prof. Allan S. Hoffman from the University of Washington, a pioneer in smart polymers and biomaterials research, for the International Symposium on Smart Biomaterials held in Tsukuba on Sept. 9. He and a former student, MANA’s Dr. Mitsuhiro Ebara, sat down with the MANA e-Bulletin to discuss their work.
Dr. Hoffman pioneered the applications of temperature and pH-responsive smart polymers and hydrogels in drug delivery, diagnostic assays and biologically active and non-fouling polymer surfaces. He is highly respected in the field of biomaterials, and has received numerous awards, as well as over a hundred patents.
Dr. Ebara’s research is in smart polymers, which are finding applications in a variety of fields, including regenerative medicine, drug delivery and rapid diagnostics, and are expected to transform medicine in the near future.
Q: How did you first get into the field of smart polymers and biomaterials?
Hoffman: In about 1983, I went to see this medical doctor, also a brilliant biologist who wanted to use antibodies that he had developed in his lab. Antibodies are mostly proteins that recognize smaller partner binding partners that have an affinity to bind together. And so he thought maybe he could create a kind of a biological test for toxins. So if you ingest that’s toxic, or catch a disease, your body recognizes it as a foreign molecule because it’s not normally in your body and will build up antibodies to that toxic material.
That’s essentially where it started. He wanted to take the antibodies that he’d licensed from his laboratory and use them in a diagnostic test, as well as a therapeutic product, a drug to fight the toxin or disease. And I was able to help with that, because of my work with polymers.
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MANA E-BULLETIN / FEATURE