Matthew Tirrell on Nanoparticles That Target Diseases without Symptoms

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May 26, 2014
July 29, 2014
UChicago Creative


Matthew Tirrell, Professor and Founding Pritzker Director of the new Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, discusses his research, after short introductions by Sharon Feng and Dennell Reynolds. P4 medicine is shorthand for a health care system in which medicine is predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory. This fundamentally relies, at least in part, on the generation of information about evolving pathological conditions that may not have manifested any detectable symptoms. One approach to generating this type of information is to have surveillance and reporting by particles on patrol in the vasculature that are able to home to tumors and lesions and enable enhanced imaging. Combining targeting, imaging, and therapeutic capabilities in a clinically relevant manner is the goal of this research.

Matthew Tirrell is a pioneering researcher in the fields of biomolecular engineering and nanotechnology, specializing in the manipulation and measurement of the surface properties of polymers, materials that consist of long, flexible chain molecules. His work, combining microscopic measurements of intermolecular forces with the creation of new structures, has provided new insight into polymer properties, especially surface phenomena` such as adhesion, friction, and biocompatibility, and new materials based on self-assembly of synthetic and bioinspired materials.

Tirrell received a BS degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and a PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He began his academic career as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he later served as head of the department. He then moved to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he served as dean of engineering for 10 years. He then moved to the University of California at Berkeley, where he served as chair of the Department of Bioengineering. In 2011 he accepted the position of Founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering.