Self-assembling supra-molecular materials from biosynthetic stimulus-responsive protein polymers

The natural protein synthesis ‘machinery’ in micro-organisms can be used to create novel protein-like polymers consisting of a string of polymer segments (also called ‘modules’ or blocks) with structures inspired by collagen, silk, elastin and other natural fibrous proteins.

The resulting natural polymer molecules can interact with neighbouring molecules and spontaneously give rise to supra-molecular structures such as nano-fibres, nano-coatings, networks/gels, etc.

Natural polymer molecules

This property of the protein polymer molecules, in addition to other properties, can sometimes cause production problems such as inhibition of product synthesis, (partial) degradation of the polymers in or outside the cells that produce them, and/or stalled secretion of the polymers. If this happens, the polymers can no longer be harvested from the medium surrounding the production cells.

The development of protein polymers is driven by the desire to create specific material properties and functionalities in a rational way, for medical/pharmaceutical and other high-tech applications. Problems encountered in the biosynthetic production of protein polymers in living cells (for example yeast) are often caused by the specific combinations of polymer blocks of which a particular multiblock polymer molecule consists.

In this project, strategies are developed to circumvent such production problems, and to allow the creation of large supramolecular assemblies and nanostructures with specific bio(inter)active modules.

Project details



  • Wageningen University – Laboratory (Chair Group) Physical Chemistry & Colloid Science (prof. dr. M. A. Cohen Stuart )

Contact: Frits de Wolf

Expertise areas

Expertise areas


  • Biomolecular sensing
  • Fermentation
  • Strain improvement


  • Biobased performance polymers
  • Sensing and diagnostics