MEMS Seminar: Protein Nanocage:A Versatile Molecular Carrier

May 5

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Friday, May 5, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Professor Sierin Lin

Protein nanocages can be engineered to tailor their functions as carriers for health (e.g. therapeutic and diagnostic agents)[1], molecular electronic, and consumer care (e.g. cosmetics and food) applications. They are formed by the self-assembly of multiple subunits forming hollow cage-like structures of nanometer size. Due to their proteinaceous nature, the protein nanocages allow facile modifications on its internal and external surfaces, as well as the subunit interfaces designed for the intended applications. In this presentation, I will elaborate on utilizing protein nanocages loaded with metal as MRI contrast agent[2] or with drug as drug carrier, modifying the interface of the subunits to render the nanocages sensitive to environmental changes, such as pH[3].Engineering of the external surface allows for the display of targeting ligands for selective accumulation on cancer cells[4,5] as well as epitopes for modulating of the immune system. Leveraging on its natural or engineered metal-chelating activities, protein nanocages serve a dual function as a reaction container and as facilitator in the deposition of monodispersed platinum nanoparticles on graphene surfaces for electrocatalysis in fuel cells[6]. Long-range electron tunneling across metal-loaded protein nanocages has also been shown to be promising in the development of memristive devices and future molecular electronics[7,8]. In the most recent works, we show that the protein nanocages are surface active with an ability to stabilize Pickering emulsion with pH-responsive behavior[9]. Titrating the protein ratio allows for formation of gel-like structures. In summary, protein nanocages are versatile protein-based materials whose properties are tunable for various applications. 


Sierin Lim is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering, the Assistant Chair (Research) at the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and the Program Chair (Healthy Society) at the Interdisciplinary Graduate School at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore. She earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and did a postdoc at University of California Irvine. Her Bioengineered and Applied Nanomaterials Laboratory (BeANs Lab) at NTU focuses on the design and engineering of hybrid nano/microscale devices from biological parts by utilizing protein engineering as a tool for applications in medicine (therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccine), electronics, cosmetics, and food. She is the founding chair and advisor to the Biomedical Engineering Society (Singapore) Student Chapter and is one of the STEM ambassadors at Singapore Committee for UN Women. She is also serving on the editorial board of Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology and advisory board of She is the recipient of the Asia Pacific Research Networking Fellowship from the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE, 2012), the L’Oréal-UNESCO Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowship (2013), and the Tan Chin Tuan Fellowship for Exchange in Engineering (2016).



  1. Bhaskar SM, Lim S, NPG Asia Materials (2017), accepted.
  2. Sana B, Poh CL, Lim S, Chemical Communications (2012) 48(6):862-864.
  3. Peng T, Lee H, Lim S, Biomaterials Science (2015) 3:627-635.
  4. Bücheler J, Howard C, de Bakker CJ, Goodall S, Jones ML, Win T, Peng T, Tan CH, Chopra A, Mahler S, Lim S, Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology (2015) 80(7):1230-1236.
  5. Walsh EG, Mills DR, Lim S, Sana B, Brilliant KE, Park WKC, Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2013) 15:1409-1418.
  6. Qiu H, Dong X, Sana B, Peng T, Paramelle D, Chen P, Lim S, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (2013) 5(3):782-787.
  7. Meng F, Sana B, Li Y, Liu Y, Lim S, Chen X, Small (2014) 10(2):277-283.
  8. Kumar KS, Pasula RR, Lim S, Nijhuis CA, Advanced Materials (2016) 28(9):1824-1830.
  9. Sarker M, Tomczak N, Lim S, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (2017) 9(12):11193-11201.

 Lunch will be served at 11:30 am.