Molecular Systems Engineering

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


16 - 18 November, Rome, Italy

1st International Conference Ethics of Engineering Life
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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.
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A functional combination between nature and chemistry

Researchers from the Meier and Palivan groups have succeeded in developing molecular factories that mimic nature. To achieve this they loaded artificial organelles inside micrometer-sized natural blisters (vesicles) produced by cells. These molecular factories remain intact even after injection into an animal model and demonstrate no toxicity, as the team report in the scientific journal Advanced Science.
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Understanding the mechanosensitive system for neuronal control

How do the different parts of a neuron respond to mechanical stimuli such as those occurring during subtraumatic forces? In an interdisciplinary effort, researchers from the Müller and Fussenegger groups at D-BSSE together with colleagues in the Roska group from the Institute of Ophthalmology (IOB) of the University Basel investigated the mechanosensitivity of neurons from the brain of rats. Their findings may guide future studies to mechanically control neurons by, for example, electromagnetic forces or ultrasound.
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Mammalian signaling circuits from bacterial parts

The ability to engineer synthetic signalling networks has proven challenging for synthetic biology. A breakthrough design strategy by the Benenson group shows that bacterial two-component-system-derived parts can be grafted into mammalian cells to create programmable phosphorylation circuitry.
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Randall Platt receives the ETH Latsis Prize

Randall Platt, Project Leader at NCCR MSE and professor in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel, received the ETH Latsis Prize for his exceptional work in the field of genome engineering – an achievement made all the more impressive given his young age.

Established in 1975, the Latsis Foundation funds the annual ETH Zurich Latsis Prize, with which ETH honours outstanding young scientists from all fields. The prize comes with and endowment of CHF 25,000.
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Synergizing Enzymes with Homogeneous Catalysts for Sustainable Synthesis

Researchers from the Ward group in collaboration with colleagues at the D-BSSE have developed a chemo-enzymatic concurrent cascade that combines up to 8(!) enzymes in E. coli with a metathesis catalyst to convert olive oil into cycloalkenes. A molecular factory par excellence producing value-added products using sustainable chemistry.
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Revolutionising the CRISPR method

© ETH Zurich / Carlo Cosimo Campa

In a recent publication in Nature Methods, researchers from the Platt group have refined the famous CRISPR-Cas method. Now, for the very first time, it is possible to modify dozens, if not hundreds, of genes in a cell simultaneously. The method offers enormous potential for biomedical research and biotechnology.
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Imaging allows to track progression of Stargardt disease


Stargardt disease is a hereditary eye disease that leads to visual defects and the loss of sight. A study has now shown that autofluorescence imaging might offer a way to assess whether novel treatments are effective at slowing down vision loss. This is the result of a study published by researchers from the Scholl group.
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Daniel Müller receives the Marsilius Medal

Daniel Müller, Co-Director of NCCR MSE has received the Marsilius Medal from the Marsilius Kolleg of the University of Heidelberg.

Every semester, the Marsilius-Kolleg organizes a Marsilius Lecture in which renowned scientists from different fields speak on cross-disciplinary topics. These are then presented with the Marsilius Medal, which is awarded for special merits in the dialogue between scientific disciplines.
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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.

26th edition of the Swiss Soft Days

Fri, 6 March
Chemistry Department
St. Johanns-Ring 19, Basel

Soft synthetic and bio-materials at the nano- and micro-scale.
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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.
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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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Upcoming events

16-18 November
Ethics of Engineering Life @Rome, Italy
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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.