Bioseparations, Biomedical Engineering, Membrane Systems
One of the dominant issues in the development of new pharmaceuticals and recombinant therapeutic proteins is the separation/purification of these products from the media in which they are produced. Recent efforts in the Zydney group have demonstrated that membrane processes can be used for highly selective biomolecule separations by exploiting some of the unique characteristics of the specific biomolecules.
For example, high performance protein separations can be accomplished by adjusting the solution conditions to exploit both electrical and size-based interactions between the proteins and the membrane pores, while DNA separations can be performed by exploiting the elongational flexibility of the plasmids. The latter work is of particular interest in the purification of plasmid DNA for gene therapy applications and DNA-based vaccines.
Undergraduate projects will be designed to extend these studies to examine the purification of vaccine conjugates, which are prepared by the covalent linkage of a bacterial polysaccharide to a protein. The production of the vaccine conjugates requires the development of effective separations technology to remove unreacted precursors and in some cases it is necessary to remove multiple conjugated species. Relatively little is known about the ultrafiltration behavior of these vaccine conjugates. REU students will conduct experimental studies designed to provide insights into the underlying phenomena controlling the behavior of these complex molecules. They will learn to operate standard membrane filtration setups including the widely used Amicon stirred cell system. They will also use gel electrophoresis and chromatography to analyze DNA and proteins, respectively. Students working on these projects will have opportunities to interact with industrial collaborators at leading biotechnology companies (Lilly / Amgen / Pfizer).