Smart Polymeric Biomaterials Enhance Device Functionality

MD&M East 2011 Event Coverage
A shape-memory-assisted, self-healing
polymer can close crack surfaces without external intervention.

Dr. Patrick T. Mather, the Milton and Ann Stevenson professor of biomedical and chemical engineering and director of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute, presents “Smart Polymeric Biomaterials” on Wednesday, June 8, as part of the MD&M East University Medical Innovation Showcase. Discussing a variety of exciting advancements in medical device research and development, scientists from several New York–based research institutions will present their innovative technologies to new venture development and established industry professionals. Organized with the intention of fostering medical device innovation, the event aims to promote licensing, joint R&D, and venture funding for university startups and emerging technologies.

MPMN: What are ‘smart polymeric biomaterials?’

Mather: Smart polymeric materials are those polymers/plastics that have built-in responsiveness so that they respond mechanically, optically, or otherwise to an external stimulus in a predictable manner. A great example are shape-memory polymers (SMPs).

MPMN: What advantage or benefit do they offer to medical device design and development?

Mather: Smart polymeric materials can add functionality to a device. For example, it can allow deployment from a low-profile shape—delivery via catheter—to a 3-D object on command. In product development, some shape-memory polymers can be used as a 3-D physical canvas—like a plastic clay. Reversible embossing of shape-memory rubber allows exploration of texture and feel for devices, with erasure between trials.
 
MPMN: How do the shape-memory polymers your group is working on differ from other shape-memory polymers?

Mather: Our SMPs are actually a suite of materials with variation from elastomers to thermoplastics to thermosets. Within each SMP class, we have control over hardness, softening temperature, biodegradability, and drug elution. That is quite unique among published and patented SMPs. Our self-healing polymers also uniquely utilize shape memory as part of the healing process, obviating the need for external intervention to close crack surfaces during repair.
 
MPMN: Your group is also working on antimicrobial polymers. What differentiates your antimicrobial technologies from those currently on the market?

Mather: Our antimicrobial polymers have a uniquely sustained effect of greater than ten days, owing to their nanostructural control over silver-ion release. They further possess the dual functionality of large absorbency for water and body fluids.
 
MPMN: Given the proper funding and/or resources, when could these materials be commercialized?

Mather: In all of our approaches, we could commercialize within two years, given resources for process and material scaleup, testing, and product development.
 
MPMN: Why should OEMs attend your presentation or consider partnering with you on these projects?

Mather: Each of our smart polymeric materials offers multiple market-entry points backed by strong IP positions.