Featured Customer: Kevin Sill

Kevin Sill, Ph.D., is founder and president of Tyndall Formulation Services, a contract research organization that specializes in developing novel polymer excipients for drug delivery applications. He is responsible for the strategic development of formulation products and is leading a project for the company’s current pharmaceutical partner. He is also the co-founder and CEO of BW Therapeutics.

Not too many of our customers can claim that they grew up doing SEC-MALS, but Kevin comes pretty darn close. Fascinated by polymers since high school, he has a MALS pedigree that goes back to his undergraduate days, influenced and inspired by some of the most prominent practitioners of SEC-MALS in the polymer world. It’s all part of belonging to the extended Wyatt family.

Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, studied and the field you chose.

I grew up in small-town Illinois, near Peoria. When I was in high school, my chemistry class toured the USDA facility for agriculture research where they were making plastic silverware and packing peanuts from starch-based thermoplastics. After many annoying letters from a 16-year old kid, Dr. J.L. Willett allowed me to intern in the plant polymer division. It was during this experience that I first learned about polymer materials and their utility.

I attended the University of Illinois, where I received my B.S. in Chemistry while working for Prof. Jeff Moore. I then received my M.S. and Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

What led you to choose that field?

I was fortunate to have many outstanding mentors in the field of polymer science. Among them were Dr. Andre Striegel, now at NIST. I first met Andre when I was washing his glassware at USDA. He took me under his wing and really helped educate me about a number of analytical techniques for characterizing polymers, among which was size-exclusion chromatography, or SEC.

I think that having private lectures from a world leader in a field went a long way towards stoking my interest; I continued with formal coursework on polymer materials. I think what fascinates me most about the field is the breadth of applications of polymers. High performance fibers, semi-conducting materials, drug delivery devices - all can be accomplished with polymers by tuning the underlying chemistry.

What are the scientific challenges that excite you?

As a polymer chemist, the ability to create and tune new materials for real-world applications is what fascinates me. I really enjoy designing polymers to solve specific problems, currently for the drug-delivery market. The number of materials that one could envision and test is unlimited.

In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt instruments?

I first encountered Wyatt instruments while an undergraduate, as part of the SEC instrument setups in the Moore group. I continued to utilize them throughout graduate school. When I started my first company developing drug delivery systems, one of our first purchases was a DAWN/Optilab set plus a DynaPro Plate Reader.

How has your Wyatt instrumentation contributed to your research and development studies?

One of the most important analytical techniques for any synthetic polymer chemist is SEC, particularly triple-detector SEC which incorporates RI, UV, and MALS detectors. This setup provides a tremendous amount of information regarding polymer materials, especially for block copolymers when the blocks possess disparate dn/dc and absorption coefficients.

Of course, MALS is invaluable in providing the size of the polymer, but another really useful capability is differentiating between aggregates or polymer impurities (i.e. dimers). Our DynaPro Plate Reader is a key instrument for assessing the size and distribution of polymer nanoparticles, and evaluating their stability.