Dr Sebastian Spain

Seb Spain

Lecturer in Polymer Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
The University of Sheffield
Brook Hill
Sheffield S3 7HF
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 9362
Email: s.g.spain@sheffield.ac.uk

Spain Group Website

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Spain received his MChem from the University of Durham, followed by a PhD from the same institution. He then moved to a postdoctoral positions at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Oxford (2008-10), and the School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham (2010-14). In 2014 he was appointed as a Lecturer at the University of Sheffield.

Professional Qualifications & Memberships

  • MRSC
  • FHEA

Research Keywords

Polymer Synthesis, Polymer Characterisation, Controlled Radical Polymerisation, Biomaterials, Drug Delivery, Pharmaceutics, Responsive Materials, DNA assembly, Immunological Materials, Glycopolymers, Bioconjugation, Gene Delivery, Virotherapy

Teaching Interests

Polymer Chemistry, Radical Chemistry


My research interests lie at the interfaces of chemistry, biology and pharmacy, particularly the use of modern synthetic polymer chemistry for the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics. Particular areas of interest are outlined below.

Stimuli-Responsive Materials

Stimuli-responsive, or "smart", materials are those that display a non-linear change in properties (e.g. solubility) in the presence of an external trigger. By matching the stimulus to the biochemical environment of a certain disease or tissue the resulting property switch can be used target that site. For example, through use of a temperature responsive polymer the uptake of drug loaded particles into cells can be controlled in a temperature dependent manner. In addition to commonly used stimuli (e.g. pH or temperature) we have developed systems that respond to specific nucleic acid sequences, allowing far greater control over the switching process. We are now extending this research to target markers of immunological disease.

Modular approaches to biomaterials

Despite advances in controlled polymerisation, polymeric materials are, by their nature, disperse with a distribution of molecular weights/chain lengths. This dispersity leads to additional variables when comparing different materials which is particularly problematic in an already complex system such as a human cell. Modular approaches, where a core structure may be later decorated with functional components, allow many materials to be synthesised and compared while minimising variations in dispersity.

Biological interactions with polymers

Polymers have been used routinely in cosmetics and medicines for decades however there is increasing materials that have been "generally regarded as safe" may not always be so. I am interested in how synthetic polymers interact with biological entities, by what mechanism and how can altering polymer structure affect this interaction.


Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules

  • Chemistry of Radical Polymerisation (Level 4)
    This module introduces ways to synthesis polymers with useful functionality and introduces the basic concepts involved in carrying out these reactions.
  • Fundamental Polymer Chemistry (Postgraduate Level)
  • Design and Synthesis of Polymers and Controlled Structure (Postgraduate Level)

Support Teaching:

  • Tutorials: Level 2 Organic Chemistry.
  • Level 3 Literature Review

Laboratory Teaching:

  • Level 3 Research Project
  • Level 4 Research Project
  • Polymer MSc Laboratories


Journal articles


  • Spain SG, Yaşayan G, Soliman M, Heath F, Saeed AO & Alexander C (2011) Nanoparticles for nucleic acid delivery, Comprehensive Biomaterials (pp. 389-410). RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Alexander C, Saeed A, Magnusson J, Fernandez-Trillo F & Spain SG (2013) Engineering polymers to respond to biorelevant stimuli: New materials and opportunities. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 245 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Parry AL, Spain SG, Ellis J, Davis BD & Cameron NR (2009) Glycopolymer-functionalized gold nanoparticles: A new strategy toward synthetic anticancer vaccines. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 238 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Cameron NR, Spain SG, Bayley JPM, Watson H, Dureault A, Sanderson JM, Thies JC, Ayres L & van Hest JCM (2005) Well defined bioactive polymers by RAFT polymerization. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 230 (pp U4302-U4302) RIS download Bibtex download