Berkeley chemist wins national award for work with new polymers

Chemist Jean M.J. Frechet of Oakland, Calif., will be honored August 28 by the worlds largest scientific society for the remarkable breadth of his chemical inventions, including new molecules that can turn light into other forms of energy or deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to tumors. He will receive the 2001 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Chicago.

One of Frechets latest projects is developing and understanding a new class of molecules called dendrimers. These complex organic compounds have a variety of potential uses, from light-harvesting antennae to transporter molecules for drugs or other cargo.

"Dendrimers dont exist in nature but have the approximate size and globular almost spherical shape of many proteins," said Frechet, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a pioneer in several areas of research. "Their compact shape and small size gives them special properties."

Frechets research team designs dendrimers, invents ways to make them, then studies what they can do and how their properties relate to their shapes and make-up of their surfaces. "Everything we do goes from fundamental design and understanding to the pursuit of applications," he said.

One such pursuit is drug delivery that is, using dendrimers to ferry anti-cancer agents, for example, directly to tumors. Blood vessels within cancers tend to be leaky, as they grow so quickly. That means even large molecules can pass through holes in tumor vasculature.

"Some anti-cancer dugs are hard to administer because they are very insoluble and toxic," said Frechet. "So what we do is attach them to a dendrimer." They then escape the bloodstream only in the vicinity of tumors, which transport them inside their cells. Once there, the dendrimer-drug link is designed to break down and the drug is released, he explained. His group has several such compounds in animal studie

Contact: Rodney Pearson
American Chemical Society

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