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Multivalency by Bart Jan Ravoo, Rainer Haag, Leonard J. Prins, Jurriaan Huskens

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Foreword

Scientific challenges come and go; only a few of them remain for a long time. Multivalency is one of those research topics that has been prominent for many years, as this intriguing phenomenon is of profound importance in many biological processes as well as very difficult to understand and mimic. Personally, I became intrigued by the challenge of multivalency when our group entered the field of dendrimers in 1990. The controlled number of end groups – 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 amines of the polypropylene imines – opened many opportunities for us to explore the controlled use of multiple interactions. However, our ideas were more simple than our experiments in making full use of the potential of multivalency; many of them remained in the realm of dreaming. The broad potential of multivalency as well as its complex mode of action was beautifully illustrated by George Whitesides and coworkers [1] in the seminal Angewandte Chemie review paper in 1998. Their review initiated a world‐wide search for synthetic mimics of these highly effective natural systems, a search that turned out to be long lasting.

Nature uses both similar interactions (homovalency) and different interactions (heterovalency) to control selectivity and specificity, even leading to ultra‐sensitivity. Beautiful examples are found in substrate–cell interactions and immunology. Ever since this elegant mechanism and its importance in biological systems has been recognized, chemists have been intrigued to fully ...

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