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Matthew Becker: Designing Functionalized, Degradable Biomaterials for Healing

An expert in organic polymer chemistry, Matthew Becker's research is focused on developing bioactive polymers for regenerative medicine and drug delivery

Matthew Becker has joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. An expert in organic polymer chemistry, Becker's research is focused on developing bioactive polymers for regenerative medicine and drug delivery.

Becker's approach relies on the precise placement of bioactive molecules on degradable polymers.

Becker's approach relies on the precise placement of bioactive molecules on degradable polymers. After working to understand the clinical presentation of a problem such as bone or tissue damage, Becker tailors the molecular makeup and structure of his materials to deliver the necessary physical-chemical and mechanical properties to address the unmet medical need.
One of Becker's focal points is developing new degradable polymers that can be 3D-printed to create biomedical devices. Not only must these materials be able to be reabsorbed by the body, they must also support heavy biomechanical loads and be chemically functionalized to carry and release biomolecules to induce healing or prevent infection. Becker's laboratory has created a library of functional materials that addresses these issues and several have been licensed by 21MedTech for its first clinical trials.

Another project with recent success is developing degradable materials out of amino acids—the building blocks of our proteins. These so-called poly(ester urea)s—or PEUs for short—are proving to overcome previous limitations in stiffness and strength while having excellent blood and tissue compatibility and producing no toxic byproducts. These materials were successfully used to repair bones in a sheep model in a US Army project that ultimately seeks to help soldiers with serious bone injuries due to high-velocity projectiles and improvised explosive devices.

Becker's laboratory is also working with electrospun nanofibers, tissue engineered vascular grafts, functional hydrogels to control human stem cell differentiation, and biomaterials with high concentrations of peptides and growth factors to trigger certain cellular responses.

Becker earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Northwest Missouri State University and his PhD in organic chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis as an NIH Chemistry Biology Interface Training Fellow. In 2003, he moved to the Polymers Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology for a NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. He joined the permanent staff in 2005 as a project leader for bioimaging and tissue engineering before moving to The University of Akron in 2009, where he was the W. Gerald Austen Endowed Chair in Polymer Science and Engineering.

Becker is the founder of three start-up companies—3D BioResins, 3D BioActives and Fortem—under the holding company 21st Century Medical Technologies. He was one awarded the Macromolecules-Biomacromolecules Young Investigator Award in 2015; was a National Finalist in Chemistry for the Blavatnik Award in 2017; and was awarded the 2019 Carl S. Marvel Award in Creative Polymer Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. Becker is a Kavli Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineering, and the PMSE Division of the American Chemical Society.