Molecular Systems Engineering

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


18-20 August, Nijmegen, Netherlands

2nd International Conference on Molecular Systems Engineering: Functional Molecular Systems.
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A biosynthetic dual-core cell computer

Graphic: Colourbox/Steven Emmett, ETH Zurich

Researchers from the Fussenegger group have integrated CRISPR-Cas9-based core processors into human cells. Combining orthogonal Cas9-variants enabled the design of multicore genetic CPUs that provide parallel arithmetic computations. The Cas9-based multicore CPU design represents a huge step towards creating powerful single-cell mammalian biocomputers that may provide unparalleled opportunities in developing novel biomedical applications.
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Welcome, Hala!

NCCR MSE is welcoming Hala Helmy, our new Finance, HR & Equal Opportunity Officer.

Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine awarded to Botond Roska

The 2019 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine has been awarded to Botond Roska, project leader at NCCR MSE and co-Director of the newly established Institute for Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, for his work on restoring vision. The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine is the most prestigious European prize for medicine.
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Whole-brain imaging of mice during behavior

In a study published in Neuron, researchers from the Roska group have demonstrated how functional ultrasound imaging can yield high-resolution, unbiased, brain-wide activity maps of behaving mice. The team was particularly interested in the brain regions involved in the optokinetic reflex. These can lead to a brain-wide understanding of how brain activity relates to specific behavior – in healthy mice and in mouse models of neurologic or psychiatric diseases.
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Christof Sparr awarded the Ruzicka Prize 2018

Christof Sparr, project leader at NCCR MSE  has been awarded the Ruzicka Prize 2018 for his work on catalytic cascade reactions inspired by polyketide biosynthesis.

The Ruzicka Prize is awarded to a young researcher for an outstanding publication in the field of chemistry, and is considered one of the most important awards in the field of chemistry in Switzerland.
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Recording device for cell history

© Martin Oeggerli / Micronaut.

Researchers from the Platt group are using the CRISPR-Cas system to develop a novel recording mechanism: the snippets of DNA it produces can provide information about certain cellular processes. In future, this cellular memory might even be used in diagnostics.
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"Molecular balls" for a new type of catalysis

NCCR MSE researchers at the University of Geneva show how electrons can move together on the surface of molecular balls formed of carbon atoms and allow a new type of catalysis.
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New approach to terpene syntheses

Terpenes are natural products that are often very difficult to synthesize in the laboratory. Chemists from NCCR MSE working in the Tiefenbacher group have now developed a synthesis method that mimics nature. The decisive step takes place inside a molecular capsule, which enables the reaction.
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Contact to molecules established for the first time on silicon chip

Electrical circuits are constantly being scaled down and extended with specific functions. A new method developed by researchers from NCCR MSE now allows electrical contact to be established with simple molecules on a conventional silicon chip. The technique promises to bring advances in sensor technology and medicine.
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Could coffee replace insulin injections for diabetics?

NCCR MSE researchers working in the Fussenegger group have developed an implant which releases diabetes medication when it senses caffeine in the blood. The future of diabetes treatment might not be a shot in the arm after a meal, but a shot of espresso instead.
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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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Lab Concerto

© Patrick Hürlimann

Our public Lab Concerto series premiered on 7 February 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. The concert was followed by an apéro in Berta’s Saloon where the audience, musicians and scientists had plenty of time to meet and discuss the traditional relationship between the arts and the sciences.
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Dual leadership for the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health

The directors of the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health: Professor Georg Holländer and Professor Sai Reddy. (Image: University of Basel / ETH Zurich)

NCCR MSE Project Leader Sai Reddy (D-BSSE) has been appointed Vice Director of the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH). He will co-direct the BRCCH together with Prof. Georg Holländer from the University of Basel.

On 19 September, the University of Basel and ETH Zurich co-founded the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH) in Basel, funded by Fondation Botnar with a contribution of 100 Mio CHF. The BRRCH brings together top scientists and clinical researchers from a variety of disciplines in order to develop new methods, systems engineering principles, and digital innovations for global use in paediatrics. Several research groups from NCCR MSE were instrumental in planning and establishing the BRCCH and will be actively involved in its research.
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NCCR MSE has an Ironwoman

On the first weekend of September at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, South Africa, our NCCR MSE Phd student Sophie Herzog made place 3 (of age group 25-29)! Sophie qualified among 130'000 athletes worldwide to participate. From these about 3'000 athletes were allowed to race for the Ironman!


We are happy to announce the "opening" of our very own Kinderspot - a mobile childcare facility equipped with toys for the children (<10 yrs.) of our team members. On Rosental areal in Basel we offer our own flexible childcare facility that can be installed on various floors and rooms whenever needed.
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Cooperation with Center for Gender Studies

While NCCR MSE recognizes that gender stereotypes exist in various areas of life we are strongly committed to assure that the fundamental right of equality between men and woman can be exercised in our group of researchers. To underline these efforts we have invited the renowned Center of Gender Studies to become our critical scientific partner.
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The lab as a bridge

Together with the library, the lab is one of the places of knowledge par excellence: in the former, knowledge is stored and made accessible, in the latter, created. But what if you make labs more open and accessible? A conversation with Head Ethics Ralf Stutzki.
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NCCR MSE sets up ethics think tank with PAL in Rome

Rev. Renzo Pegorara, chancellor of the PAL, during the ICMSE ethics debate in Basel.

Following our acclaimed ethics panel held during the 1st ICMSE in August 2017, the NCCR MSE teams up together with the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) in Rome to build a think tank focusing on the ethical implications of synthetic biology and molecular systems engineering.

Since our research in phase II will increase its focus on the therapeutic potential of molecular systems engineering (e.g. vision restoration; metabolic disorders; systems immunooncology), we are convinced that the PAL as a leading global networker and contributor to the academic field of bioethics will be an inspiring and challenging partner in our ethical discourse.
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Upcoming events

15-16 May
Fellow Retreat 2019 @Grindelwald
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18-20 August

2nd International Conference on Molecular Systems Engineering @Nijmegen, Netherlands
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NCCR Flexibility Grants

New NCCR Flexibility Grants are available to postdocs and doctoral students who have to look after children at an important stage in their career and are in need of more flexibility.
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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 of NCCR fellows and students of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) exploring new horizons at the interface between science and art.