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The research in our group is interdisciplinary and spans organic and macromolecular chemistry, development of polymer-based nanomaterials and their applications in biology-related fields. The research topics and directions are schematically presented below, followed by a more detailed description.

2015 11 Group Research Overview


I. Polymer Synthesis and Surface Biofunctionalization. The first research topic deals with the design and synthesis of functional polymer surfaces, materials and patterns. The aim of this topic is to understand interactions of live cells with artificial polymer surfaces and learn how to use defined surface properties to control various biologically and medically relevant cell behavior. In particular, we investigate stem cell differentiation as a function of surface physical and chemical properties. This is crucial to enable the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine by controlling the maintenance of stem cell pluripotency or directing stem cell differentiation on artificial surfaces. In order to systematically investigate cell-surface interactions we develop novel methods to create functional polymer surfaces with defined surface micro- and nano-topography, porosity or superhydrophobic properties. Several novel photochemical strategies for polymer (bio)functionalization, patterning, formation of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic patterns or polymer-polymer conjugation have been recently introduced

II. Combinatorial Synthesis of Nanomaterials. This research subtopic is aimed to advance the field of drug and gene-delivery by combinatorial synthesis of lipid- or polymer-based functional nanoparticles. We aim to understand how nucleic acids, proteins, nanoparticles or small molecules interact with cell or tissue biointerfaces and can be more efficiently delivered into the cells. The approach is based on the development of combinatorial methods for fast parallel synthesis of libraries of bioactive molecules or polymers, followed by their screening with live cells, tissues or cell spheroids to understand structure-function relationship and identify most efficient delivery systems. The results of this research lead to fundamental understanding of biological interfaces and their interaction with nanoscale materials as well as help to identify sustainable polymers and nanoparticles for practical applications in biotechnological, pharmaceutical or biochemical fields. As an example, one synthetic strategy recently developed in my group resulted in the identification of a novel efficient gene-delivery vector, which is now commercialized by a spin-off company Incella GmbH.

III. Miniaturization and Multiplexing: High-Throughput Screening Platform. The third research topic in the group deals with applications of developed functional polymers, photochemical methods for surface patterning and superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic surfaces as antibiofouling coatings, cell repellant coatings, artificial substrates for stem cell culturing, microarrays for cell, particle or hydrogel screenings. One example is the use of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic polymer microarrays to create ultra high-density arrays of microdroplets (Droplet-Microarrays). The new miniaturized platform opens the way to perform thousands of cell experiments in parallel in completely isolated droplet microreservoirs, which can potentially revolutionize the field of cell screenings. In collaboration with industry and academia groups we are also developing the Droplet-Microarray platform to enable its use for personalized cancer diagnostic applications (ERC Proof-of-concept grant).

Contact

Dr. Pavel Levkin   
Build.: 341 / Office: 154 
E-Mail: levkin@kit.edu
Tel:  +49-721-608-29175

KIT Adress

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Campus North)
Institute of Toxicology and Genetics - Geb. 341
Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1
76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany