Research Lab

Biomolecular Engineering

Biomolecular Engineering
Research Interests

We are a multidisciplinary team dedicated to design and engineer minimal biomimetic systems, namely combining designed molecular recognition agents with functional biobased materials, which together find applications in Bioseparation, Sensing & Diagnostics.

The main topics of research involve:
1. Biobased functional materials in gas sensing & artificial olfaction;
2. Sustainable & biobased materials towards alternative purification processes of biological products;
3. Design & discovery of biological and synthetic affinity ligands for capture and release of biopharmaceuticals and biological markers.

Research Highlights
Learning from Nature to develop mimetic systems, using peptide and protein systems

Affinity-triggered hydrogels: Using a bottom-up approach with one of the strongest known natural affinity pairs, the avidin-biotin system, we showed that natural multivalency must be obeyed to guide the autonomous self-assembly of multicomponents into robust hydrogels. Our approach provided the basis for the design of multicomponent hydrogels inspired in Nature and Biology, which represent important tools for mild cell encapsulation, a requisite for tissue and cell therapies.


Sensors from cork: Our study focused on developing a new class of environmentally-friendly optical gas sensing materials composed of the biopolymer suberin extracted from plants and a nematic liquid crystal. Our results further corroborate the potential to valorize underutilised agro/food residues into gas sensing materials for artificial olfaction purposes. Find more here.


highlight 2020

Representative Projects

  • “Sea2See: Bio-inspired materials for fish spoilage control”, FCT-MCTES, Total and Unit funding: €248,604, Cecília Roque (PI).
  • “ACCuseD - ACCuseD renAl Cell Carcinoma Detection Renal Cancer detection: a translational metabolomics research based on Volatile Organic Compounds fingerprinting”, FCT-MCTES, Total funding: €239,499, Unit funding: €11,633, Cecília Roque & Arménio Barbosa (Collaborators)
  • “SCENT: Hybrid gels for rapid microbial detection”, EC-ERC, Total funding: €1.5M, Unit funding: €1.5M, Cecília Roque (PI).
  • “Viral Capture and Puri cation System: Smart macroporous structures for the af nity puri cation of retroviral particles”, FCT-MCTES, Total funding: €147,000, Unit funding: €121,200, Cecília Roque (PI).
  • “CHImerASE – Integrated platform for de novo design and development of a chimeric enzyme for high-value chemicals”, EC- ERA-IB,Total funding: €328,846, Unit funding: €99,996, Ricardo Branco (PI), Cecília Roque (Collaborator).

Selected Publications

Fernandes, CSM; Pina, AS; Roque, ACA. 2021. Affinity-triggered hydrogels: Developments and prospects in biomaterials science. BIOMATERIALS, 268, DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2020.120563
Rodrigues, R; Palma, SICJ; Correia, VG; Padrao, I; Pais, J; Banza, M; Alves, C; Deuermeier, J; Martins, C; Costa, HMA; Ramou, E; Pereira, CS; Roque, ACA. 2020. Sustainable plant polyesters as substrates for optical gas sensors. MATERIALS TODAY BIO, 8, DOI: 10.1016/j.mtbio.2020.100083
Rebordao, G; Palma, SICJ; Roque, ACA. 2020. Microfluidics in Gas Sensing and Artificial Olfaction. SENSORS, 20, DOI: 10.3390/s20205742
Matos, MJB; Pina, AS; Roque, ACA. 2020. Rational design of affinity ligands for bioseparation. JOURNAL OF CHROMATOGRAPHY A, 1619, DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2020.460871
Padrao, I; Fernandes, CSM; Esteves, C; Fernandes, T; Pina, AS; Roque, ACA. 2020. Versatile and Tunable Poly(Ethylene Glycol)-Based Hydrogels Crosslinked through the Ugi Reaction. ChemPlusChem, 85, DOI: 10.1002/cplu.202000743