Newsletter MOLEKULAR-ia

Everything you need to know about Molecular Systems Engineering: Find the latest information and news, recent publications and upcoming events for the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering here.

June 2017, Vol. 4

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Interview Thomas R. Ward: Molecular Assembly Line to Cure the Body

The NCCR MSE presents the ICMSE 2017. Click here to read the full interview about the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering and the International Conference on Molecular Systems Engineering.

Thomas R. Ward, Director.
A model of an artificial metalloenzyme which results from incorporation of an abiotic cofactor within a host protein.

Public Events

Ethics Debate: "Ethical challenges of synthetic biology"
Sunday 27.8.2017, 4.10 – 5.40pm
Hörsaal HS 118, Kollegienhas Uni Basel, in English

As part of the ICMSE 2017 (see below), Kai Kupferschmid, contributing correspondent for Science Magazine (Berlin) will host an ethics debate with these guests:

  • Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita at the Vatican in Rome
  • Joyce Tait, Innogen Institute, University of Edinburgh
  • Randall Platt, project leader, NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering.
ICMSE 2017 will be held at the “Kollegienhaus” of the University of Basel. This remarkable main building features a large auditorium for the conferene (Aula) and a wonderful courtyard for socializing.
„La scuola di Atene“, by Raffaelo.


ICMSE 2017: Sunday 27 – Tuesday 29 August 2017
International Conference on Molecular Systems Engineering
Register online

What is the ICMSE 2017

The first International Conference on Molecular Systems Engineering (ICMSE 2017) will feature speakers and participants from leading international research institutions. The ICMSE is a unique event in the emerging field of molecular systems engineering, and has the potential of leading to a long-term paradigm shift in molecular sciences. Distinguished speakers including Stefan W. Hell, Ben L. Feringa, Lee Cronin, Hagan Bayley, Krzysztof Palczewski, Bert Meijer, Martin Fussenegger, Andreas Plueckthun, David Tirell, Wilhelm T.S. Huck and many more will share their vision of molecular systems engineering. The conference will be held at the University of Basel (Kollegienhaus, Petersplatz 1). More here.

Program highlights

Opening: Sunday, 27 August 2017, 6pm

  • Keynote: Ben L. Feringa, University of Groningen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016
  • Klang der Moleküle - The sound of molecules: Concert premiere with the argovia philharmonic
  • Apéro and networking.

Scientific conference: Over 40 speakers and plenty of networking opportunities

1st conference day: Monday, 28 August 2017

  • Talks on Molecular Modules and Systems
  • Keynote & Conference Dinner at Roche:
    - Welcome by Severin Schwan (CEO) and John Reed (Head pRed), Roch
    - Keynote: Stefan W. Hell, Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 
    - Apéro, with selected ICMSE 2017 posters on display
    - Conference Dinner, Restaurant Avenue, Roche tower.

2nd conference day: Tuesday, 29 August 2017

  • Talks on Molecular Factories and Cellular Systems
  • ICMSE Poster Prize 2017
  • Conclusions and farewell, Thomas R. Ward, Director NCCR MSE (ends 7pm approx.).

A pre-conference for PhD students and postdocs will be held on 26-27 August 2017, just before the ICMSE 2017. It is organized by and for members of the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, the Research Training Group GRK2062 "Molecular Principles of Synthetic Biology" (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich) and FMS Research Center (Research Center for Functional Molecular Systems; University of Groningen, Radboud University Nijmegen, Eindhoven University of Technology). More here.

c) Basel Tourismus
Ben L. Feringa
Kollegienhaus, University of Basel.
Stefan W. Hell: © Peter Badge/Typos1 in cop. with Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings - all rights reserved 2017


SeminBar on Thursday, 2.11.2017, Basel, 6pm

This Seminar at the bar brings new know-how on molecular systems engineering to researchers and the interested public alike. Coming up on 2 Nov. is Brad Hyman. He is the Director of the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center & John B. Penney Jr. Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. > Read more

Following Prof. Hyman is singer/songwriter Roli Frei, who probably is amongst the most gifted Pop, Rock, Blues and Soul singers in Switzerland. Also with DJ Morbus Nova. Everyone welcome.

Brad Hyman
Roli Frei, Singer & Songwriter


Technology Apéro: Friday, 17.11.2017, University of Basel

The 4th Technology Apéro will be on 17 November 2017 in Basel. Details will follow soon.

Other events

Events of interest to members of the NCCR MSE, and other interested audiences:

  • Various events for various interests: At the University of Basel and at ETH Zurich in Basel (D-BSSE).
  • Various events in and around Basel are staged by BaselArea.Swiss, a platform that fosters innovation and accelerates business in Switzerland’s most dynamic economic region, Basel. > More here
  • At the “Historische Museum Basel”, an exhibition entitled “Wirkstoffe” tells the story of innovation in chemistry and pharmaceutics (runs until 18 June 2017).

Publications originating from the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering

By the end of March 2017, the scientific output of the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering includes a total of 218 (red) publications. 48 (green) of these were joint publications, and 68 (blue) were published in a high impact journal (IF  > 10). Yellow shows the patents enabled by this NCCR.

Find an overview of the scientific output for this NCCR since 2014 below:

Recently published scientific papers by our fellows are continuously added to our publications list and to the individual member-profiles online, including this recent paper:

  • The Hidden Side of Sulfur: The Matile-Group has found that a sulfur atom, if carefully inserted into a molecule, can not only become an extremely effective catalyst but can also operate with greater precision. This discovery has the potential to revolutionize the world of synthetic organic chemistry.

Science reported about the Fussenegger Group:

  • The Fussenegger group has used the simplest approach yet to produce artificial beta cells from human kidney cells. Like their natural model, the artificial cells act as both sugar sensors and insulin producers, as reported in Science. > Read more in English or German.
(Picture: Dolgachov / iStock)

Welcome our new NCCR-members

New Scientific Officer: Aleksander Benjak has joined the management team of this NCCR a while ago.

New PI: We say farewell to Urs Dürig (IBM Research) who has retired, and we welcome Heiko Wolf as his successor.

These research fellows have recently joined one of the research groups united in the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering. Please welcome these new fellows and do not hesitate to contact them.

New PhD-students, postdocs and research members 

  • Ta Duy Tien is a postdoc with the Nash-Group at the University of Basel.
  • Stefanie Hwu is a PhD-student with the Vörös-Group at the ETH Zurich.
  • Nikhil Jain is a postdoc with the Vogel-Group at ETH Zurich.
  • Maria Kuhn is a PhD-student with the Platt-Group at the D-BSSE.
  • Hendrik Mallin is a postdoc with the Ward-Group at the University of Basel.
  • Marco Masiero is a PhD-student with the Mayor-Group at the University of Basel.
  • Yves Mermoud is a PhD-student with the Calame-Group at the EMPA.
  • Martin Spillmann is a PhD-student with the Schertler/Kammerer-Group at the PSI.
  • Svetlana Stolarov is a postdoc with the Palivan-Group at the University of Basel. 
Aleksander Benjak
Stefanie Hwu
Maria Kuhn
Hendrik Mallin
Yves Mermoud
Martin Spillmann

Fellow News

News about and for NCCR Fellows:

  • Royal Society of Chemistry Award: Thomas Ward, Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at the University of Basel and Director of the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, is the Royal Society of Chemistry Bioinorganic Chemistry Award winner for 2017. 
  • National Academy of Engineering elects new members: Martin Fussenegger was elected by the National Academy of Engineering as foreign member in the class of 2017.
  • Site Visit: All NCCR MSE fellows are expected to participate on Thursday 22 June 2017 (10.30am – 3.30pm) for the presentations and discussions, as well as the poster show. The Site Visit takes place at the “Alte University” in Basel (just like last year).

The University of Basel offers various possibilities for further education:

  • New listings each month here.
  • “Soft skills“ classes can be found here.
  • Combine academic learning with professional experience in the best way possible and further your career. More here.

More Lunch Meetings are coming up in the 2nd half of 2017: Due to schedule changes in the renovation of the new NCCR building on Rosental, these Lunch Meetings are re-scheduled to Misrock and on Wednesdays. Hopefully, starting October, we will be able to move Lunch Meetings to Mondays at the new NCCR Building.

  • June: No Lunch Meeting (Site Visit)
  • 19.07.: Jens Gaitzsch, Meier-Group. Introd.: Ann Cathrin Waindok.
  • 23.08.: Niels Weisbach, Platt-Group. Introd.: Yasunori Okamoto.
  • 20.09.: Yves Mermoud. Calame-Group. Introd.: Niels Weisbach.

The full list of speakers can be found online here. Don't miss the sandwich-lunch meetings every third Wednesday of the month @ Misrock (D-BSSE, Basel). If you must miss it, see the videos here.

  • The Fellow Retreat 2018 is scheduled for 28 - 30 May 2018. Reserve the date now.

Last, but not least, our call for information: Is anything of interest happening in your NCCR-group? Inform us in due time and we will gladly post your event online and/or report about your group here in MOLEKULAR-ia or on our Fellows Website.

Jens Gaitsch.
Monthly Lunch Meetings
Fellow Retreat 2017.


  • Read the interview with the new director of the Kunstumusem, Josef Helfenstein, online in the latest issue of Uni Nova: «The university and the Kunstmuseum are both products of this city’s open-mindedness.»
  • And, if you read German, you might be interested to learn how Novartis fosters innovation, as told in an interview by CEO Joe Jimenez (Basler Zeitung).
  • Have a look at the latest issue of Horizons, the research magazine published by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Read here online.

Beyond research: For those not in the lab!

Most members of the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering are based in the Basel-area, and probably more than half are expats. In this column, we suggest some highlights in and around the city of Basel - for the time you do not spend in the lab:

  • Dine outside overlooking the Rhein on (almost) a shoestring budget: The “St. Louis Buvette” offers drinks and various fish “Knusperli” with fries starting around CHF 16. Just a few steps further on the promenade along the Rhein is Roots; a more pricier eatery also overlooking our river.
  • Neighbourhood Flea Markets in Basel: On selected Saturdays or Sundays you will find flea market stalls from building to building. Colourful balloons mark the participating locations and you can discover precious findings on front lawns and in (the rest of the year never to be seen) backyards. Next on 11 June in the neighbourhood know as “Matthäus”.
  • Every scratch a “pure listing pleasure”! If you happen to be into vinyl: At Schneidergasse 30, records are celebrating a comeback in the heart of the city, opening this June. And yes, you need a turntable at home (who would have thought so).
  • You prefer museums to music? Starting 10 June, the recently remodelled Kunstmuseum Basel shows sketches and drawings by Paul Czézanne. My personal tip: The opening on 9 June at 6.30pm. The entrance is free, and a glass of (good) wine is usually offered.
  • Most upcoming art exhibitions at museums in Basel are listed here. The “biggies” are Marc Chagall (Kunstmuseum, opening on 15 September at 6.30 pm) and Paul Klee (Fondation Beyeler, opening by invitation only).
  • Coming up in summer is the yearly Blue Balls Festival in Lucerne – a real alternative to Montreux, and an ideal short trip from Basel to excitement. Paid shows such as Patti Smith in the stunning KKL auditorium, and free-outdoor shows around the lake.
  • Only three days and not as prominently billed is Summer Stage Basel from 6 – 8 July.
  • And don’t forget the free “Im Fluss” Festival coming up 25 July through 12 August 2017, with loads of international and local faves and newcomers. Program coming soon.

Suggestions for this section are welcome; especially for cities other than Basel. Just send an E-Mail with the header "Beyond".

Foto Kunstmuseum Basel - Martin P. Bühler
Foto Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


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Events for the public

Public events include our talk Basar Molekular and the SeminBar-series. All our events are listed in our "Events Program 2016".

ICMSE 2017: 27-29 August

Read more about ICMSE 2017

About Molecular Systems Engineering

Read more about Molecular Systems Engineering, molecular factories and practical applications.

Scientific Publications

Scientific publications enabled by the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering are listed here.

Media on NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering

What the media says about the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering: Read here.