Advisory Board

Professor Kenneth A. Dawson

The PhysOrg article Scientists form alliance to develop nanotoxicology protocols said

A team of materials scientists and toxicologists announced the formation of a new international research alliance to establish protocols for reproducible toxicological testing of nanomaterials in both cultured cells and animals. The International Alliance for NanoEHS Harmonization (IANH) was unveiled today at Nanotox 2008, one of the world’s largest biennial nanotoxicological research meetings.
“When this team of scientists from Europe, the U.S., and Japan are able to get the same results for interactions of nanomaterials with biological organisms, then science and society can have higher confidence in the safety of these materials,” said Kenneth Dawson, of University College Dublin and current chair of the IANH team.

Kenneth A. Dawson, BSc, MSc, D.Phil is Director of Center for Bionano Interactions and Chair of Physical Chemistry within the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Ireland.
An experienced and multi-award-winning researcher, his focus is on groundbreaking projects that are exploring the nature of the interaction between nanoscale structures and living matter, such as cells and tissue.
Kenneth’s research interests include:
BioNano Interactions
Development of a rational basis for investigating and understanding how nanomaterials interact within living systems (cells, tissues, organisms, humans) is a fundamental challenge. Understanding the mechanisms and spatiotemporal aspects of nanomaterial interactions with living systems will enable him to design new nano-based therapies and diagnostic platforms, as well as ensuring that nanomaterials not intended for human contact can be utilized safely.
By combining physical chemical approaches with state of the art biological technologies he is framing and developing quantitative bionanoscience. Ongoing projects include development of a kinetic model of nanoparticle uptake by cells; elucidation of the portals and mechanisms of nanoparticle uptake by various cells; development of a human blood-brain barrier co-culture model; and mapping of the spatio-temporal pathways utilized by nanoparticles in cells.
Protein-Nanoparticle Interactions
Living systems never contact bare nanoparticle surfaces — rather they are coated by a dynamic and evolving layer of proteins, lipids, and other biomolecules immediately upon contact with living systems.
Much of his current work is directed to understanding the details of these evolving biomolecule coronas — identifying the proteins involved and how these evolve as the nanoparticles are trafficked in cells; connecting this to potential functional impacts in terms of changes in the protein conformation and protein misfolding events; development of new approaches to map the outer layers of the biomolecule corona which interact with the cellular machinery; and understanding the rules governing nanoparticle-protein interaction.
Quantitative BioNanoInteraction
He seeks to catalyze the emergence of a new quantitative approach to understanding how nanoscale objects interact with living matter. Thus, he develops novel labeled nanoparticles applying imaging and related techniques to follow them entering and moving within cells.
These measurements he seeks to make reproducible and quantitative and this leads him to push typical methods of cell culture, cell biology, nanoparticle dispersion technology, and related elements to a level far beyond the usual requirements. In particular he can now reproducibly follow several classes of nanoparticles into cells lines, with reproducibility and precision more familiar in physical sciences.
Systems Approaches
Here he applies the methods of simulation, modeling, theory, and mathematical approaches to understanding issues of dynamical arrest, correlations between events, and to developing quantitative understanding of nanoparticle impacts on living systems.
Projects include development of a framework for understanding relationship between gene expression profiles and cancer onset; understanding slowed dynamics and more recently its application to intracellular processing and trafficking intermittancy events, which are likely to have very significant impact for biological systems.
New Responsive and Smart Delivery Nanoparticles
Polymeric nanoparticles can be loaded with therapeutic agents and tailored to adsorb specific proteins and thereby to target specific cellular trafficking pathways and reach specific sub-cellular locations is the dream of nanomedicine. In this arena, he is working on development of such particles, tailoring the particle size, surface hydrophobicity, surface charge, surface ligands, and loading strategies to design smart delivery systems that can go with very high selectivity to target organs / tissues / sub-cellular organelles.
Kenneth authored The glass paradigm for colloidal glasses, gels, and other arrested states driven by attractive interactions and coauthored Phase equilibria and glass transition in colloidal systems with short-ranged attractive interactions. Application to protein crystallization, Universality in Lattice Models of Dynamic Arrest: Introduction of an Order Parameter, Interaction of soft condensed materials with living cells: Phenotypesranscriptome correlations for the hydrophobic effect, Clarification of the Bootstrap Percolation Paradox, The nature of the colloidal “glass” transition, and Phase Behavior of DPPC in a DNA-Calcium-Zwitterionic Lipid Complex Studied by Small-Angle X-ray Scattering.
Kenneth earned his B.Sc. in Chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 1980. He earned his M.Sc. in Mathematics at QUB in 1981, and he earned his D. Phil in Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Oxford in 1984.
Watch Nanoscience… the next frontier. Read Nanoparticles: size and charge matter.