Multivalent polymers for drug delivery and imaging: The challenges of conjugation

Mallory A. van Dongen, Casey A. Dougherty, Mark M. Banaszak Holl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Multivalent polymers offer a powerful opportunity to develop theranostic materials on the size scale of proteins that can provide targeting, imaging, and therapeutic functionality. Achieving this goal requires the presence of multiple targeting molecules, dyes, and/or drugs on the polymer scaffold. This critical review examines the synthetic, analytical, and functional challenges associated with the heterogeneity introduced by conjugation reactions as well as polymer scaffold design. First, approaches to making multivalent polymer conjugations are discussed followed by an analysis of materials that have shown particular promise biologically. Challenges in characterizing the mixed ligand distributions and the impact of these distributions on biological applications are then discussed. Where possible, molecular-level interpretations are provided for the structures that give rise to the functional ligand and molecular weight distributions present in the polymer scaffolds. Lastly, recent strategies employed for overcoming or minimizing the presence of ligand distributions are discussed. This review focuses on multivalent polymer scaffolds where average stoichiometry and/or the distribution of products have been characterized by at least one experimental technique. Key illustrative examples are provided for scaffolds that have been carried forward to in vitro and in vivo testing with significant biological results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3215-3234
Number of pages20
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes

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