Molecular Systems Engineering

A paradigm shift focusing on molecular factories, cellular systems and the improvement of health.

Cells on the run

Image: Lomakin et al. Science

Many cells in the body must pass through tissue, which sometimes requires them to get out of tight corners. An international research team co-​led by NCCR Co-Director Daniel Müller has now examined how cells recognise and escape from such bottlenecks. Among the results of the team’s work are new pointers for how to improve immunotherapy. The results were published in the journal Science.
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Artificial human retinas

Image: University of Basel, Suren Manvelyan

NCCR MSE scientists from the Roska and Scholl groups have succeeded in growing accurate replicas of human retinas that can be used to pinpoint the specific types of cells affected by genetic eye diseases. This achievement will accelerate progress in developing individual therapies. The research was reported in Cell and is a collaborative effort of scientists from the University of Basel, the Institute for Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.
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Bioactive nano-capsules to hijack cell behavior

Many diseases are caused by defects in signaling pathways of body cells. In the future, bioactive nanocapsules could become a valuable tool for medicine to control these pathways. Researchers from the Palivan group have taken an important step in this direction: They succeed in having several different nanocapsules work in tandem to amplify a natural signaling cascade and influence cell behavior.
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GSCN 2020 Young Investigator Award to Barbara Treutlein

Barbara Treutlein, Project Leader at NCCR MSE and professor in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel, received the "GSCN 2020 Young Investigator Award" for her outstanding research in the field of single cell analysis and research into the development of human organs, such as the brain.
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An all-DNA protocell harboring an artificial metalloenzyme shows life-like behaviour

The Ward group in collaboration with researchers from the University of Freiburg have engineered an all-DNA protocell harbouring an artificial metalloenzyme whose olefin metathesis activity leads to downstream morphogenetic protocellular responses, including pronounced growth, intraparticular functional adaptation and protocell fusion. Such processes mimic chemically transduced processes found in cell adaptation and cell-to-cell adhesion. The results were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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Botond Roska receives Körber Prize

Botond Roska, Project Leader at NCCR MSE and Professor at the University of Basel and Director of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), will receive the Körber European Science Prize for 2020. The award, worth EUR 1 million, is one of the most prestigious science prizes for researchers in Europe.
> Video (in German)
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Gene therapy to reverse vision loss in macular degeneration

Image: Victorien Ameline / unsplash

Researchers from the Roska and Scholl groups have developed a strategy that has the potential to improve vision in patients with macular degeneration in the future. Using a gene therapy, they sensitized blind retinas of mice and human organ donors to near-infrared light. The team based at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) has published its results in the journal Science.
> Read more (in German)

Using electrical stimulus to regulate genes

Image: Colourbox

The team of researchers led by Martin Fussenegger has succeeded in using an electric current to directly control gene expression for the first time. Their work provides the basis for medical implants that can be switched on and off using electronic devices outside the body. The prototype for such an implant was described in a recent paper published in Science.
> Read more (in German)

National Academy of Engineering welcomes Viola Vogel

Prof. Viola Vogel was elected by the National Academy of Engineering as an international member in the class of 2020 for her contribution to the elucidation of how proteins work as nanoscale mechanochemical switches, and applications to bioengineering and medicine.
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A functional combination between nature and chemistry

An interdisciplinary team from the Palivan and Lim groups has succeeded in creating a direct path for artificial nanocontainers to enter into the nucleus of living cells. To this end, they produced biocompatible polymer vesicles that can pass through the pores that decorate the membrane of the cell nucleus. In this way, it might be possible to transport drugs directly into the cell’s control center. The researchers have published their latest findings in PNAS.
> Read more (in German)

Welcome, Effy!

NCCR MSE is welcoming Effy Vayena, professor of Bioethics at the ETH Zurich. Effy will focus on the ethical aspects of our research through an interdisciplinary approach which fosters both theoretical and empirical methods.
You can listen to Effy's view on the ethical questions digital contact tracing is raising during the current COVID-19 pandemic and why she is optimistic that digital technologies can help reduce the speed at which the virus spreads.
> Podcast with Effy Vayena

Online professional coaching

NCCR MSE is offering online professional coaching for free to all NCCR members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just contact Hala Helmy, who is a professional BSO certified coach and supervisor with over 10 years of work experience.

The focus should be on the individual, not on their gender

"From birth onward, the focus should be on the individual, not on ascribing them to a gender."

Read a captivating interview with educational researcher Elena Makarova from the University of Basel about gender equality in the school system, which directly affects equality in the working world.
> Read more (in German)

Bullying in science and what to do about it

Bullying in science can take on many forms, and its more widespread than generally known. Read more about bullying in research, and what you can do about it by recognizing what’s really going on, enlist support, and be kind to yourself.
> Bullying in science
> Being bullied? Here’s what to do

DeepCDR Biologics gets venture capital and entrepreneurial training

DeepCDR Biologics, a spinn-off from the Reddy group focusing on novel discovery workflows that combine drug screening in mammalian cells with deep learning to generate thousands of optimized lead candidates for therapeutic antibodies, has received venture capital and entrepreneurial training from Venture Kick.
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Robert Waterman on spirituality and science

"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a Spirit is manifest in the Laws of the Universe—a Spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we, with our modest powers, must feel humble.” — Albert Einstein

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NCCR MSE meets Locarno Film Festival

World-renowned Locarno Film Festival and NCCR MSE merged expertise to initiate a unique cooperation: for its 72nd edition (August 7 – 17, 2019) the festival invited NCCR MSE to discuss the ethical challenges of its research and to join the new ‘BaseCamp laboratory of ideas’ with a group of young scientists (PhD students and Postdocs).
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Molecular Factories — the Art of Engineering on the Microscale

Image: 123RF | CC0

Read Alina Stein's thoughts and views on synthetic biology, what really natural or artificial is, and how she is contributing to the NCCR MSE and our efforts in molecular systems engineering.
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Paul Walton on gender equality

Over nearly all scientific organisations, across every country and across time one finds that the progression of women in research and academia is significantly hindered when compared to men. Such a universal truth represents an enormous loss of talent.

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Something knocked me out' the tree – Ralf's corner

The MIT Technology Review recently reported that "Chinese scientists have put human brain genes in monkeys". After reading the article I fell asleep and had the weirdest dream. I dreamt that I was a scientist in a lab, wearing a fancy white coat. In the afternoon I waved good bye to my research group and drove home where my lovely wife who had her day off (she works full-time, we are very liberal) opened the door.
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SwissCovid app

Together we can prevent a second wave of the coronavirus: with contact tracing and the SwissCovid app. We have successfully contained the spread of the new coronavirus in Switzerland. Now the aim is to prevent a second wave.
> More info

Merchandise Shop

Check out our official merchandise shop and add some more NCCR MSE to your life!
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Locarno Talks la Mobiliare

On August 16, 2019 NCCR MSE staged one of the three "Locarno Talks la Mobiliare" and discussed "The ethical challenges of engineering life and the effects on human identity".

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Lab Concerto

Our public Lab Concerto series premiered in 2019 in the chemistry labs at the University of Basel. The argovia philharmonic classical quartett played works by Händel, Britten, Tscherepnin, Dukas a.o. to an audience which had arrived from all over Switzerland. In between, our young researchers Alina Stein and Jaicy Vallapurackal showed some exciting lab experiments which helped our audience to better understand the research goals of the NCCR MSE.

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Maestro Method

"Maestro Method" is an out of the lab learning tool for our young as well as our experienced scientists. The idea behind it is that by gaining insight into work processes and methodological approaches implemented successfully by non-scientists we may enhance and improve our own professional skills.

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SRF Interview with Ralf Stutzki

Ralf Stutzki, Head Ethics, on scientific misconduct and integrity in research (in German).

SRF Interview with Benjamin Gaub

Watch the interview with NCCR MSE fellow Benjamin Gaub from the Müller group talking about vision restoration in the SRF 1 show gesundheitheute.

Sound of Molecules – I. fiddle (with)

This audio-visual production represents a milestone in the on-going cooperation between NCCR MSE and argovia philharmonic and a most unusual communication tool meant to stimulate the societal debate about the ethical challenges of synthetic biology.

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Lynn Hershman Leeson visits the NCCR MSE

American artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson has long studied the relationship between technological innovation and human identity. For her latest project she visited the NCCR MSE on October 27 to discuss art and its role in bridging the gap between science and the public.

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Art of Molecule

Take a look at the projects exploring new horizons at the interface between science and art.