Bio-inspired Nanomaterials that Interact with Host Biology

Friday, March 10, 2017 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
The FUNG Auditorium
Ester Kwon


Research Scientist

Health Sciences & Technology Department

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bio-inspired Nanomaterials that Interact with Host Biology


Recent advances in nanoscale materials that possess emergent physical properties and molecular organization hold great promise to impact human health in the diagnostic and therapeutic arenas. In order to be effective, nanomaterials need to navigate the host biology and traffic to relevant biological structures, such as diseased or pathogenic cells. Inspired by nature, I use peptides to transfer biological trafficking properties to synthetic nanomaterials to achieve targeted delivery of payloads. I will discuss the development of nanoscale technologies for application to three outstanding health problems: bacterial infections, cancer detection, and traumatic brain injury. A biodegradable nanoparticle carrying a peptide toxin trafficked to the bacterial surface has antimicrobial activity in a pneumonia model. Trafficking of a protease-sensitive nanosensor in an orthotopic ovarian cancer model sensitively detects cancer via a urine measurement. A neuron-targeted nanoparticle carrying siRNA traffics to neuronal populations and silences genes in a model of traumatic brain injury. This framework for constructing nanomaterials that leverage bio-inspired molecules to traffic diagnostic and therapeutic payloads can be applied broadly to solve problems in human health. 


Ester J. Kwon is a research scientist in the Bhatia Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ester received a B.S. in Bioengineering and a B.A. in Molecular & Cell Biology from UC Berkeley in 2004 and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington at Seattle in 2010. She completed her doctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Suzie Pun building nucleic acid delivery vehicles modified with peptides to achieve targeting and endosomal escape for applications to the central nervous system. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Bhatia Lab, she engineered diagnostic and therapeutic nanosystems for application in animal models of ovarian cancer, bacterial pneumonia, and traumatic brain injuries. Throughout her work, Ester has been interested in coordinating the interaction between nanoscale materials and host biology using peptides.