Lorraine Leon

Lorraine Leon

Postdoctoral Scholar

Contact Information

Office: (773) 702-7063
Email: lorraineleon@uchicago.edu

5735 South Ellis Avenue
Searle Laboratory 020
Chicago, IL 60637

Biographical Statement

Lorraine Leon obtained her BS in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics from the University of Florida in 2004. She received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2011 under the supervision of Prof. Raymond Tu. Currently she is a postdoctoral researcher working with Prof. Matthew Tirrell and is appointed at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Lab. Her research interests include molecular self-assembly, hybrid materials, biomineralization, bottom-up peptide design, drug delivery and interfacial crystallization. Currently she is investigating the self-assembly of polyelectrolytes into coacervate core micelles as potential delivery vehicles for peptide based therapeutics and microRNA.


My research interests involve the design, characterization, and application of novel self-assembling materials. In particular, I am interested in biomimetic systems in which carefully tuned molecular interactions create functional and responsive materials for applications ranging from nanoscale electronics to drug delivery. In the Tirrell lab, I am working on fundamentally understanding the process of polyelectrolyte complex micellization and using this technology to encapsulate peptide and nucleic acid based therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and atherosclerosis. Currently, we are using polypeptide materials as a model system to explore the kinetics and thermodynamics of formation, dissolution, and response to stimulus using several characterization techniques. For cancer treatment, we are exploring the creation of multifunctional micelles that contain both a cytotoxic peptide and cytostatic miRNA in the core and a fragmented antibody for specific targeting of cancer stem cells in the corona. Additionally, we are also creating temperature sensitive polyelectrolyte complex micelles to be used in combination with MRI guided high intensity ultrasound for the treatment of prostate cancer. To treat atherosclerosis, we are developing polyelectrolyte complex micelles with miRNA cores and different targeting peptides in the corona aimed at both early and late stage disease markers.


  1. "Self-Assembly of α-Helical Polypeptides Driven by Complex Coacervation," D. Priftis, L. Leon, Z. Song, S. L. Perry, K. O. Margossian, A. Tropnikova, J. Cheng, M. Tirrell, Angewandte Chemie Intl. Ed., 54, 11128 (2015). [PDF]
  2. "Chirality-selected phase behaviour in ionic polypeptide complexes," S. L. Perry, L. Leon, K. Q. Hoffmann, M. J. Kade, D. Priftis, K. A. Black, D. Wong, R. A. Klein, C. F. Pierce III, K. O. Margossian, J. K. Whitmer, J. Qin, J. J. de Pablo, M. Tirrell, Nature Communications, 6 (2015). [PDF]
  3. "A molecular view of the role of chirality in charge-driven polypeptide complexation," K. Q. Hoffmann, S. L. Perry, L. Leon, D. Priftis, M. Tirrell, J. J. de Pablo, Soft Matter (2015). [PDF]
  4. "Inhibition of atherosclerosis-promoting microRNAs via targeted polyelectrolyte complex micelles," C-H. Kuo, L. Leon, E. J. Chung, T. Sontag, R-T. Huang, C. Reardon, G. Getz, M. Tirrell, Y. Fang, J. Mater. Chem. B (2014). [PDF]
  5. "The Effect of Salt on the Complex Coacervation of Vinyl Polyelectrolytes," S.L. Perry, Y. Li, D. Priftis, L. Leon, M. Tirrell, Polymers, 6, 1756-1772 (2014). [PDF]
  6. "Interfacial Tension of Polyelectrolyte Complex Coacervate Phases," J. Qin, D. Priftis, R. Farina, S.L. Perry, L. Leon, J. Whitmer, K. Hoffmann, M. Tirrell, J.J. de Pablo, ACS Macro Letters, 3, 565-568 (2014). [PDF]
  7. "Ternary, Tunable Polyelectrolyte Complex Fluids Driven by Complex Coacervation," D. Priftis, X. Xia, K.O. Margossian, S.L. Perry, L. Leon, J. Qin, J.J. de Pablo, and M. Tirrell, Macromolecules, 47(9), 3076-3085 (2014). [PDF]