Daniel Siegwart, PhD

  • Recruited to: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Recruited from: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Daniel J. Siegwart was born in Pittsburgh, and received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Lehigh University in 2003. He obtained a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2008 from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) under the guidance of Professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski. He then joined the lab of Professor Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was awarded a National Institutes of Health NRSA postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Siegwart’s research has focused on designing advanced polymeric systems with precise control over macromolecular architecture, composition, and responsiveness for applications in drug delivery, imaging, and cancer.

At CMU, Dr. Siegwart studied Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization (ATRP) and utilized this technique to carefully construct functional biomedical architectures. Many of the things we use every day are composed of polymers, but it has historically been difficult to control how atoms add together into a chain to form a polymer because the process happens so quickly. Radicals are generated, and monomers (polymer building blocks) add every millisecond, forming long chains. ATRP is a special method that is able to extend the lifetime of the growing chain from one second to minutes, or hours, or even days. Now, because there is more time to do chemistry, new things suddenly become possible. One can precisely control how the polymer forms, making new architectures and introducing new functionality that has led to totally new (bio)materials and applications.

During his graduate studies, Dr. Siegwart combined ATRP with radical ring-opening polymerization to produce temperature-sensitive “smart” polymers and hydrogels for bone fracture repair that were both injectable and degradable. He developed a synthetic route towards tri-block copolymers that could self-assemble into micelles for hydrophobic anti-cancer drug delivery. Dr. Siegwart also utilized ATRP in inverse miniemulsion to form nanogels capable of encapsulating gold nanoparticles, doxorubicin, or proteins. Carefully immobilizing nanogels inside of a hydrogel system allowed for dual release of drugs at different times. These projects, among others, illustrated the power of advanced polymerization techniques to control architecture, functionality, and responsiveness in biomedical applications.

In the middle of graduate school training, Dr. Siegwart was awarded an EAPSI fellowship from the National Science Foundation to study at the University of Tokyo with Professor Kazunori Kataoka. In Tokyo, he worked on new methods to synthesize block copolymer micelles that can localize to tumors inside of mice and deliver anti-cancer drugs. This fellowship further strengthened his desire to use his knowledge of materials chemistry to work on projects that can improve human health. At CMU, Dr. Siegwart was awarded the Joseph A. Solomon Memorial Fellowship in Chemistry.

In order to apply his background in polymer chemistry to translational medical applications, Dr. Siegwart conducted his postdoctoral research with Professor Robert Langer at MIT andfocused on combinatorial, high-throughput methods in material discovery. There, he directed a project reporting the first large library of 1,536 structurally defined core-shell nanoparticlesthat established key chemical guidelines for designing materials for siRNA delivery. While at MIT, Dr. Siegwart also developed robotic technologies to accelerate the synthesis of non-fouling zwitterionic materials for cell encapsulation to treat diabetes, injectable materials to treat spinal cord injuries, and catalysts to make thiol-functionalized polymers. His research on RNAi positions him to lead a laboratory focused on developing next-generation cancer therapies by delivering siRNAs to silence oncogenic proteins and miRNAs to restore tumor suppressor activity.

At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Siegwart’s long-term goals are to develop effective materials for miRNA and siRNA delivery, to develop "turn on" cancer imaging probes, and to globally understand how the physical and chemical properties of materials affect interactions with biological systems in the context of cancer research. He aspires to build upon all of his experiences to make a beneficial impact on human health through improved imaging methods to detect cancer and improved therapies to treat cancer.