Faculty in the News – Heather Maynard

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Professor Heather Maynard, UCLA’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Polymer Science, was interviewed by Drug Discovery News for her pioneering research on poly(trehalose methacrylate) (pTrMA). Her work leverages the polymer’s protective properties to create more stable formulations of critical life-saving drugs.

The article, titled “From Sea Monkeys to Shelf-Stable Insulin”, discusses Maynard’s development of a new drug stabilization technique that was inspired by the stability of shrimp-like sea monkeys. Her research focuses on using trehalose, a sugar found in various organisms, to create trehalose-based polymers that can protect life-saving drugs from extreme conditions, including high temperatures and a lack of refrigeration. One such polymer, poly(trehalose methacrylate) (pTrMA), has been developed and shown to stabilize insulin, preserving its function even in high heat. The article also highlights safety testing in mice, which yielded promising results. Maynard’s research aims to optimize the synthesis of pTrMA and explore potential partnerships with industry for further development, with the ultimate goal of improving drug formulations to ensure accessibility and safety in various environmental conditions.

Maynard is a worldwide leader in the area of protein-polymer conjugates, which are important therapeutics for a variety of diseases. She develops new synthetic methods to make the materials, invents new polymers to improve properties such as stability, and demonstrates preclinical efficacy of her conjugates with an eye towards translation for human health. Maynard also works in the area of smart materials for precision medicine: materials that respond to disease states in the body.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.