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Biodegradable polymers that overcome drug resistance in infectious disease

6 August 2021
12:00pm - 1:00pm
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With the increased prevalence of drug resistance in both infectious disease and cancer, there is an urgent need for development of innovative antimicrobial and anticancer strategies. In this talk, biodegradable antimicrobial polymers, which are based on functional polycarbonates, will be discussed. These polymers were synthesized via organocatalytic living ring-opening polymerization. This synthetic approach yields polymers with well-defined molecular weight and structure, which is crucial for future clinical applications. These polymers killed bacteria based on unique mechanisms – membrane disruption or membrane translocation followed by precipitation of cytosolic materials. The polycarbonates with optimal compositions have strong activity against multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria without inducing significant toxicity. Unlike antibiotics, multiple treatments using these polymers did not cause resistance.

In addition, biodegradable amphiphilic copolymers have also been designed and synthesized, which self-assemble into stable nanoparticles by simple dissolution in aqueous solution. These nanoparticles overcame drug resistance in cancer, and demonstrated to be effective in a PDX HCC mouse model. Repeated use of the polymers did not induce resistance in cancer cells. In addition, the polymers prevented cancer metastasis in a 4T1 mouse breast cancer model. These polymers hold potential for use in the prevention and treatment of MDR infectious disease and cancer.


Yi Yan Yang, Covering Executive Director,  Institute of Bioengineering and Bioimaging, A*STAR, Singapore

Yi Yan Yang was elected Fellow, the Academy of Engineering Singapore, earlier this month. In January 2016, she was elected Fellow, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). She obtained her Ph.D. degree from Tsinghua University (China) in 1990. She has more than 260 peer-reviewed journal publications (e.g. Nat. Mater., Nat. Nanotech., Nat. Chem., Nat. Biomed. Eng., Nat. Commun., Adv. Mater., Adv. Funct. Mater., Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed., Biomaterials, J. Control. Release) (H-index: 82; Citations: 22472), and 83 primary patents filed/granted. Her technologies were licensed to three start-up companies, and she is a co-founder of the start-up company TriSafe HealthTech She has received many invitations to hold lectures and seminars in Singapore and overseas. In 2009, Singapore Women’s Weekly Magazine awarded her the Great Women of Our Time Award, Science and Technology Category. Her work on antimicrobial polycarbonates was named Scientific American’s “Top 10 World Changing Ideas” in 2011. She is an Associate Editor for Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, and on the Editorial Board for Advanced Healthcare Materials.

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This is part of UNSW Australian Centre for NanoMedicine (ACN)'s monthly seminar series. Please contact for further information.