Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Tirrell, David A.
Location California Institute of Technology
Primary Field Chemistry
Secondary Field Biophysics and Computational Biology
 Election Citation
Tirrell opened new frontiers in macromolecular chemistry. He has made pioneering contributions to the development of new polymers and custom-designed biomolecules synthesized in bacteria.
 Research Interests
My research interests lie in macromolecular chemistry. I was trained as a polymer chemist, and began my career by working on the kinetics and mechanisms of polymerization reactions and polymer modification processes. When recombinant DNA methods became widely available in the 1980s, I began to explore the use of artificial genes to direct the synthesis of novel, well-defined macromolecules in bacterial cells. This approach to macromolecular synthesis allowed the polymer chemist, for the first time, the opportunity both to design a new structure and then to prepare that structure with essentially absolute control of the molecular architecture. Our initial targets were artificial proteins that form crystals, liquid crystals and gels of predetermined, programmable properties. More recently, we have focused on materials for use in surgery and regenerative medicine, the use of artificial amino acids to prepare proteins that behave in unusual ways, the evolution of proteins of novel composition, and the development of new approaches to the analysis of protein synthesis in cells.

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