SoftPharma: Functional soft matter for controlling polymorphism


I propose to develop a novel functional soft matter system for controlling polymorphism -ability of a material to exist in more than one crystal structure- in extremely water-insoluble organic compounds such as cancer pharmaceuticals. Inadequate understanding and control of polymorphism is currently a bottleneck hampering the high-value chemicals industry. Particularly, failing to identify and selectively crystalize the most stable form of extremely water-insoluble pharmaceuticals, is currently obstructing drug development and manufacturing. While strategies have been suggested, polymorphism is far from understood and approaches leveraging soft materials remain underexplored.

By systematically employing confinement, designing specific chemical interactions and exploiting self-assembled structures, I will identify the mechanism governing polymorph formation. These insights will be exploited to create composite hydrogels embedded with drug carrying nanoemulsions, capable of controlling polymorphism. Composite hydrogels ideally suit such a study due to the ease of independently tuning confinement and specific interactions. Furthermore, carefully designed composite hydrogels fulfill industrial requirements e.g. biocompatibility, rapid dissolution, and carrying a high weight fraction of the pharmaceuticals.

The project consist of four stages:
(1) Using hydrodynamics and optics, I will design an enabling microfluidic setup for synthesizing biocompatible composite hydrogels.
(2) I will systematically introduce confinement by altering the droplet size of nanoemulsions.
(3) I will introduce specific chemical interactions between drug-tensioactive species. Tensioactive species can be any physiochemical moiety altering surface tension including surfactants, proteins and colloids.
(4) By careful choosing tensioactive species, I will design structures self-assembled at liquid-liquid interfaces exploring geometric and physiochemical effects.

These designer composite materials form a new class of soft matter with unprecedented potential with ability to act both as polymorph-controlling pharmaceutical excipient and controlled-release materials. Borrowing fundamental concepts from soft matter, microfluidics and crystal engineering, I will uncover and exploit the link among confinement, specific interactions, geometric effects and polymorph formation.





Dr. H.B. Eral

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit B├Ętawetenschappen, Departement Scheikunde


Dr. H.B. Eral, Dr. H.B. Eral


01/10/2015 tot 01/12/2017