###Developing nucleic acid therapeutics using controllable polymers

Project ID: 2228bd1152 (You will need this ID for your application)

Research Theme: Physical Sciences

UCL Lead department: Chemistry

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Michael Booth

Project Summary:

We are entering the age of nucleic acids. An RNA vaccine is at the forefront of the battle against SARS-CoV-2, while several nucleic acid-based drugs are entering the market to treat diseases other modalities cannot target. However, their application is still limited due to difficulties in delivering these large negatively charged molecules into cells and targeting their activity to defined locations, reducing potentially toxic off-target effects. One widely used method of nucleic acid delivery works by forming nanoparticles through non-covalent interactions with cationic polymers. In this project, we will develop covalent polymer-nucleic acid conjugates that will allow both cellular delivery and targeting. Creating these bioconjugates, rather than the polydisperse nanoparticle aggregates, will allow for the formation of distinct, single molecular species, which simplify synthesis, analysis and pharmacokinetics. We will take advantage of photocages, temperature- and pH-responsive polymers and a wide range of nucleic acids, including antisense oligonucleotides, small interfering RNA and plasmids. This project will unlock the potential of nucleic acid therapeutics to treat a wide range of diseases that are beyond the reach of current therapeutics. For this project, we are looking for a student who understands chemistry and wants to apply their knowledge towards biological and medical problems.