Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

MediSURF: Bioactive surfaces for precision medicines

Is it possible to successfully design self-assembling nano-scale protein skeletons for use as a vaccine platform?

2018 - 2022
Alexander Kros
Horizon 2020/M-era.Net

Leiden University (NL)
Eindhoven University of Technology (NL)
National Institute of Chemistry (SI)

For decades, scientists have successfully made modifications to natural proteins to create engineered proteins with enhanced functions. With advances in protein design however, it is now possible to design and construct new and complex proteins, with advanced functionality, from the bottom up. MediSURF will lay the foundations for a new technological platform, in which de novo designed, nanoscale polypeptide skeletons (MAPS) will be precisely engineered from the bottom up.

Offering complete control over skeleton size and shape, as well as positioning and density of appended functionality, the potential of MAPS will be demonstrated by creating advanced cancer vaccines. Here, the ability to precisely control the periodic arrangement of bioactive reagents on the surface of the polypeptide skeleton is expected to trigger stronger and more predictable immune responses and could be a game changer in cancer immunology.


The MediSURF project aims to demonstrate 1) successful self-assembly of de novo designed polypeptides to form nanoscale protein skeletons/cages with regular and predictable geometries and 2) enhanced immunogenic responses of MAPS-based cancer vaccines over current state-of-the-art vaccine technologies. To achieve these two ambitious goals, the pan-European MediSURF consortium comprises world leading experts in the fields of protein design, nanotechnology, advanced imaging (from the nanoscale to whole living organisms) and cancer immunology. MediSURF is initiated and co-ordinated by Leiden University (Netherlands) in collaboration with TuE (Netherlands), NIC (Slovenia) and CIC biomaGUNE (Spain).

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