The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex assembly of various molecules held together via both covalent and noncovalent interactions. In order to make materials with comparable properties it is proposed that supramolecular materials based on hydrogen bonding units are eminently suitable. An important challenge in the synthesis and formulation of synthetic ECM, is besides the balance between dynamics and robustness, the introduction of complexity. This complexity can exist of bioactive molecules that are either supramolecularly or covalently attached to the materials, or might originate from the assembly of the supramolecular monomers into various hierarchical structures. Both parameters will heavily influence the function of the materials when brought into contact with cells. The bioactive function in our supramolecular systems is based on small synthetic peptides, large ECM proteins, or carbohydrates. Interestingly, small synthetic peptides can outperform mixtures of large natural proteins, highlighting the importance of bioinspired synthetic systems.
Patricia Dankers has been awarded the KNCV Golden Medal for top chemical talent. She is full professor in Biomedical Materials and Chemistry in the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS) and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, in the Laboratory of Chemical Biology and the Laboratory for Cell and Tissue Engineering, at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).
She studied chemistry at the Radboud University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where she majored in biochemistry and organic chemistry. During her PhD in natural sciences/chemistry at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the group of prof.dr. E.W. (Bert) Meijer, she combined her fascination for biochemistry and supramolecular chemistry. She developed and studied supramolecular bioactive biomaterials by introducing a modular approach. Here, she laid the foundation for the supramolecular polymers nowadays used by Xeltis in their RestoreXTM technology to treat patients with cardiovascular pathologies.
After her PhD defense in 2006, she worked for the company SupraPolix in Eindhoven, and in the laboratory of Pathology and Medical Biology at the University Medical Center Groningen where together with prof.dr. Marja J.A. van Luyn she initiated the bioartificial kidney project in the Netherlands. She defended her second PhD thesis in medical sciences on kidney regenerative medicine at the University of Groningen in 2013. In 2010 she worked in the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, USA, in the research group of prof.dr. Samuel I. Stupp. She has climbed every step on the academic ladder, from assistant professor (2008) and tenured associate professor (2014) till full professor (2017).
She is a Veni and Vidi laureate (2008 and 2017) and received an ERC starting grant (2012). She has been awarded various (EU) grants and awards, such as the DSM Science & Technology award, the Pauline van Wachem award for the best thesis in biomaterials research and tissue engineering and the Journal of Polymer Science Innovation award at the ACS (2019). From 2011-2013 she has been a member of the first Jonge Gezondheidsraad (JongGR). She has been a member and board member of De Jonge Akademie (DJA) of the KNAW (2015-2020). She has been the president of the Netherlands Society of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering (NBTE) for a few years. She founded and is currently leading the Eindhoven Young Academy of Engineering (EYAE) at TU/e. Since 2019, she is the chair of the Chemistry Round Table of NWO. This table is the voice of the chemical research community to the NWO Science Domain. Additionally, she considers the promulgation of science to society a very important topic.