The de Vries Lab investigates materials made out of biopolymers, mainly proteins and polysaccharides. We investigate both natural biopolymers and de-novo designed ones, that are produced using biotechnology. Important examples of materials made out natural biopolymers include textiles and food. Biopolymers to make these materials can be harvested from animals, plants, fungi, bacteria….basically any living organism. Biotechnology has now advanced to the point where we can manipulate living organisms to let them produce new biopolymers that have never existed in nature. This technology is especially well developed for the case of proteins. In our lab, we use (computational) sequence design to make new proteins that self-assemble into new and hopefully useful (nano) materials such as vaccine particles or coatings used in devices for medical diagnostics.
The key question that we try to address for all of these problems is the same: how can we understand and predict the properties of the materials, from the structure of the biopolymers, and the forces that act between them ? Vice versa, can we use this knowledge to design biopolymers and processes to make materials with desired properties?