Polymers have been used for many decades as the key structural components of numerous commercial products. It is only over the past couple of decades that transformative advancements in polymer chemistry have enabled the preparation of well-defined polymers with specifically tailored functionalities, degradation properties, and molecular architectures. This is enabling new applications of polymers in a range of fields. In particular, new polymer properties, combined with synergistic advances in biology/medicine, are leading to immense growth in the application of polymers in medicine for the development of drug delivery vehicles, tissue engineering scaffolds, and a wide range of other functional biomedical devices. These materials-based approaches have the potential to revolutionize many aspects of modern medicine over the next few decades. This presentation will describe the advancements of our group in two main areas. First, a new class of polymers, termed “self-immolative polymers” (SIPs), which are designed to depolymerize end-to-end upon the cleavage of a stimuli-responsive end-cap from the polymer terminus will be presented. The development of these polymers from a chemistry perspective, as well as their application in drug delivery nanoparticles and agricultural coatings will be described. Our work in the area of phosphonium polymers will also be presented, with a particular focus on the development of new antimicrobial and non-fouling surfaces.
Elizabeth Gillies is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the University of Western Ontario. She obtained her B.Sc. degree in Chemistry from Queen's University, Kingston, Canada in 2000. She then moved to the University of California, Berkeley where she completed her Ph.D. degree in 2004 working under the guidance of Jean Fréchet. After postdoctoral work at the University of Bordeaux with Ivan Huc, she joined Western in 2006. Her research interests are in the development of biodegradable polymers, stimuli-responsive polymers, phosphorus-containing polymers, and polymer assemblies. Her team is applying these polymers via multidisciplinary collaborations to a range of applications including drug delivery, tissue engineering, and agriculture. Dr. Gillies is currently the Director of the Centre for Advanced Materials and Biomaterials Research at Western. She has received a number of awards including a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials Synthesis, E. W. R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, Early Researcher Award (Ontario), and Fallona Interdisciplinary Science Award (Western).