University of Wisconsin–Madison

William L. Murphy, PhD

Professor, Biomedical Engineering


5405 WIMR
1111 Highland Avenue

Lab Website
Murphy Group

William Murphy

Research Interests

Bioinspired, Non-Covalent Assembly of Materials: Stem cell activities, including self-renewal and differentiation, are strongly influenced by signals present in their microenvironment. Our group is using novel materials chemistry to control the signals present in the local stem cell microenvironment. Our approaches use non-covalent interactions between biological molecules (e.g. proteins, DNA strands) to assemble signaling complexes on cell culture substrates and within extracellular matrices. These non-covalent assembly approaches are being used to understand/control stem cell differentiation and as a mechanism for targeted drug delivery.

Bio-responsive Materials: Biological macromolecules, including proteins and poly(nucleotides), provide the most basic unit of function in living systems. For example, proteins fold to give structurally well-defined three-dimensional macromolecules and in many cases undergo highly complex changes in response to a broad spectrum of environmental cues, including light, pH, and the binding of biological ligands. Inspired by these examples from biology, we are creating synthetic materials that have macroscopic properties that derive from the nanometer-scale properties of their component building blocks. The building blocks we are exploring include engineered proteins, synthetic peptides, and DNA strands.

Templated Growth of Biologically Active Coatings: Natural synthesis of materials is often a templated, multi-step process that produces tissues and organs with heterogeneous properties. As a result, biological materials have mechanical and biochemical properties that are tailored to a specific location in the body. In addition, biological materials (e.g. growth factors) often appear and disappear in a timed manner during development of an organism. Using natural assembly processes as an inspiration, we are developing approaches for templated assembly of synthetic biomaterials. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to control the physical and/or biochemical properties of a material, which can then be used for stem cell culture, regenerative medicine applications, and medical device design.

Biomaterial Platforms for High Throughput Stem Cell Biology: The complexity of stem cell differentiation and tissue development often require multiple types of signals to be present in distinct locations on a cell culture substrate or within an extracellular matrix. The distribution of signals in the extracellular microenvironment is influenced by both the type of molecule that is introduced into the environment, and the diffusion of molecules to and from cells. We are developing approaches that aim to control location and diffusion of biological molecules (e.g. proteins, DNA strands) in materials, with the ultimate goal of generating tailored signaling environments. These approaches are inspired by the mechanisms that control natural development of tissues, and are aimed toward understanding and re-creating natural developmental processes.

Honors & Awards

  • Member: American Chemical Society Society for Biomaterials Biomedical Engineering Society Materials Research Society
  • Editorial Boards: Advanced Functional Materials, Acta Biomaterialia, NanoLIFE, Biomatter
  • 2010 Vilas Associates Award
  • 2008 NSF CAREER award
  • 2005 IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award
  • 2003 NIH National Research Service Award

Selected Publications

(Find further publications on PubMed)