Modern polymer science increasingly requires precise control over macromolecular structure and properties for engineering advanced materials and biomedical systems. The application of biological processes to design and synthesize artificial protein polymers offers a means for furthering macromolecular tunability, enabling polymers with dispersities of ∼1.0 and monomer-level sequence control. Taking inspiration from materials evolved in nature, scientists have created modular building blocks with simplified monomer sequences that replicate the function of natural systems. The corresponding protein engineering toolbox has enabled the systematic development of complex functional polymeric materials across areas as diverse as adhesives, responsive polymers, and medical materials. This review discusses the natural proteins that have inspired the development of key building blocks for protein polymer engineering and the function of these elements in material design. The prospects and progress for scalable commercialization of protein polymers are reviewed, discussing both technology needs and opportunities.
Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering – Annual Reviews
Published: Jun 7, 2017