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Smart Drugs

UF Chemistry Professor Receives Award for Futuristic Polymer

Many people have experienced unpleasant side effects from medications – or just don’t like needles. One step to improving drug delivery for patients is to build “smart” proteins that can be released into the body as slowly and specifically as needed. Prof. Brent Sumerlin is doing just that, and has received the prestigious Hanwha-Total IUPAC Young Scientist Award for his work.

Polymer chemistry is the study and synthesis of macromolecules, which can be composed of thousands of atoms; the most commonly known examples are protein (an organic polymer) and plastic (an inorganic polymer). Sumerlin focuses on improving protein compounds that are used for vaccines and drugs, so that they can respond to the body’s feedback or be delivered without injection. He is also building self-healing polymers, such as plastic or cement that can retain their integrity despite damage.

An acclaimed teacher, Sumerlin runs the Sumerlin Research Group at UF, which is composed of 26 graduate, undergraduate, and postdoc researchers. Prof. Sumerlin has also received a Career Award from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Innovation Prize from the Journal of Polymer Science, and the Biomacromolecules / Macromolecules Young Inventor Award.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is a comprehensive research and press federation that supports chemistry and related studies around the world. The Young Scientist Award is granted every two years at the IUPAC World Polymer Congress in Instanbul, Turkey.