Lorraine Leon obtained her BS in chemical engineering and a minor in mathematics from the University of Florida in 2004. She received her PhD in chemical engineering from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2011 under the supervision of Professor Raymond Tu. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Matthew Tirrell and is appointed at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Her research interests include molecular self-assembly, hybrid materials, biomineralization, bottom-up peptide design, drug delivery, and interfacial crystallization. Currently, she is investigating the self-assembly of polyelectrolytes into coacervate core micelles as potential delivery vehicles for peptide-based therapeutics and microRNA.
Her research interests involve the design, characterization, and application of novel self-assembling materials. In particular, she is interested in biomimetic systems in which carefully tuned molecular interactions create functional and responsive materials for applications ranging from nanoscale electronics to drug delivery. In the Tirrell lab, she is working on fundamentally understanding the process of polyelectrolyte complex micellization and using this technology to encapsulate peptide and nucleic acid based therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and atherosclerosis. Currently, the group is using polypeptide materials as a model system to explore the kinetics and thermodynamics of formation, dissolution, and response to stimulus using several characterization techniques. For cancer treatment, they are exploring the creation of multifunctional micelles that contain both a cytotoxic peptide and cytostatic miRNA in the core and a fragmented antibody for specific targeting of cancer stem cells in the corona. Additionally, they are also creating temperature sensitive polyelectrolyte complex micelles to be used in combination with MRI guided high intensity ultrasound for the treatment of prostate cancer. To treat atherosclerosis, they are developing polyelectrolyte complex micelles with miRNA cores and different targeting peptides in the corona aimed at both early and late stage disease markers.
N. M. Pacalin, L. Leon, M. Tirrell. Directing the phase behavior of polyelectrolyte complexes using chiral patterned peptides. The European Physical Journal Special Topics. 2016. Vol. 225, Pg. 1805.
D. Priftis, L. Leon, Z.Y. Song, S.L. Perry, K.O. Margossian, A. Tropnikova, J.J. Cheng and M. Tirrell. Self-Assembly of α-Helical Polypeptides Driven by Complex Coacervation. Angewandte Chemie Intl Edition. 2015. Vol. 54, Pg. 11128-11132.
Perry, Sarah L., et al. "Chirality-selected phase behaviour in ionic polypeptide complexes." Nature communications 6 (2015): 6052.
Hoffmann, K. Q., et al. "A molecular view of the role of chirality in charge-driven polypeptide complexation." Soft Matter 11.8 (2015): 1525-1538.
J. Qin, D. Priftis, R. Farina, S. L. Perry, L. Leon, J. Whitmer, K. Hoffmann, M. Tirrell, and J. J. de Pablo . Interfacial Tension of Polyelectrolyte Complex Coacervate Phases. ACS Macro Letters. 2014. Vol. 3, Pg. 565-568.