Western Mail Profiles: Dr Hongyun Tai

‘Mimicking nature leads to discoveries’

Dr Hongyun Tai is a lecturer in Organic and Polymer Chemistry at Life Science Interface in the School of Chemistry at Bangor University.

NATURE is so beautiful, so elegant, so diverse; full of amazing miracles and mysteries.

Humans always learn from nature and are always inspired by nature.

There is much evidence of this as we see many exciting new technologies coming from mimicking natural phenomenon.

I am a polymer scientist and passionate about developing new “bioinspired” and “biomimic” synthetic polymers for biological and biomedical applications, using modern organic and polymer chemistry techniques.

Polymers are big molecules made up of many repeat units.

They differ dramatically from small molecules in terms of their chemical structures and properties.

Inspired by nature, I want to develop tree-like polymers with many branches by simple and controlled approaches.

The globular shape and branches of these tree-like hyperbanched polymers make them attractive as drug delivery systems.

In a living system, viruses can act as gene vectors to “traffic” genes across cell membranes, Polymer Scientists have therefore designed and prepared nano-sized ‘hyperbranched’ polymers which can act as an effective gene vector, but with much less toxicity than a virus.

I have developed hyperbranched polymers which are water soluble and are said to have “smart properties”, as they respond to stimuli such as temperature, pH and light.

These smart hyperbranched polymers as injectable materials can be used for tissue repairing and chronic wound healing, such as cartilage repair and diabetic foot ulcers.

We work with local companies whose research and development activities are polymer related and are at the interface of the life sciences.

Wales Ireland Network for Scientific Skills (WINSS) project is a collaboration between Bangor University and the Irish Partner Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).

This project is funded under the Ireland Wales 2007-2013 INTERREG IVA programme to assist the companies that work across chemistry, life sciences and material sciences.

The project will provide a range of specialist scientific skills training to SMEs in these sectors, within the Ireland and Wales cross border region.

To contact Hongyun please email h.tai@bangor.ac.uk

This article first  appeared in the Western Mail‘s Health Wales supplement on 24th December 2012, as part of the Welsh Crucible series of research profiles.