Academic Rank:
Professor of Pathology and Chemistry
Short Bio:

Dr. Don Brooks is a Physical Biochemist and Professor in the Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Chemistry and Special Advisor on External Relations, Research to the UBC VP Research Office. Following a variety of service roles in Pathology he served as UBC’s Associate Vice President Research & International from 2001 to 2011 and as Founding Director of the SPARC Office 2011-2013. In these positions he played a leadership role in promoting research (federally and provincially), building research excellence, capacity and competitiveness at U.B.C. His major current research interests are in surface and polymer chemistry, particularly in developing polymer constructs for biomedical applications including blood compatible materials, blood plasma protein substitutes and drug delivery in which his group is widely recognized. He was one of the five faculty who founded and were awarded CFI funding to build the UBC Centre for Blood Research. He has over 150 research publications, has edited four books and holds four issued U.S. patents. He received the 2000 UBC Alumni Award for Research, a 2002 Golden Jubilee Medal, is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, has been recognized by NASA and the American Chemical Society for his research and was presented with the ‘Golden Bow Tie’ David Hardwick Lifetime Achievement Award by Pathology in 2014.

Academic background

  • BSc British Columbia (1964)
  • MSc British Columbia (C.P.S. Taylor, 1967)
  • PhD Oregon (G.V.F. Seaman, 1971)
  • Postdoctoral, Weizmann Institute (A. Silberberg, 1971-72)
  • Cambridge (D.A. Haydon, 1972-74)

Research Interest

  • It is known that grafted polymer chains have a strong effect on the interaction of surfaces with blood and biological fluids. Our approach to developing biocompatible surfaces is to synthesize relatively large, surfactant-free solid polymer latex beads based on polystyrene and provide them with a reactive copolymer shell to allow grafting of acrylate-based monomers and co-monomers. These provide model, polymer-bearing surfaces which are then evaluated via biocompatibility reactions with proteins and cells. By assaying the number of reacted surface groups and the amount of monomer incorporated the molecular weights of the grafts are determined. The surfaces are then characterized by traditional (NMR), surface chemical (XPS) and non-traditional approaches (particle electrophoresis; contact angles in phase separated aqueous two phase mixtures) to provide unique descriptions of the grafted chain phase and its effects on biocompatibility. The grafted beads are further evaluated as high resolution chromatographic media by packing them in HPLC columns and measuring plate heights and partit ion coefficients for biomolecules, the latter parameter providing a further characterization of the grafted layer. The grafted surfaces are also being used to develop a thermodynamic method for measuring the accessibility of various locations in the grafted layer to dissolved macromolecules as a tool to be applied to cell surface structure definition. The particles are further used in studies of the colloidal stability of suspensions and the effects of grafted chain composition on depletion or bridging destabilization induced by dissolved macromolecules.Work on macromolecular stabilizing agents for cells via adsorption of copolymers to cell surfaces, is being extended towards development of disaggregation agents for whole blood. The effects of such agents on the rheological behaviour of blood from diabetes, stroke and heart attack patients is being studied out as a possible treatment for the abnormally high red cell aggregation known to be a risk fact or in these patients.A significant enhancement in sensitivity to cell surface properties is being sought in work on the development of cell isolation procedures utilizing partition in phase separated two polymer solutions. The separations depend on the surface free energy of cells in the phases and on a stochastic factor that is likely associated with the gravity-driven flows pRecent during phase separation. To circumvent these effects we are synthesizing copolymers with which to make equal density phases to allow experiments of the type we performed previously on the Space Shuttle.
  • Blood Research