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Explore Our Funded and Completed Projects

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Funded Projects

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ERC Consolidator Project "SupraSense"

The  ERC Consolidator Project "SupraSense" combines new strategies to design and realize biomimetic artificial receptors for bioactive small molecules, i.e., metabolites, with the aim of overcoming long-standing selectivity and sensitivity limitations that hindered other synthetic sensory systems from reaching diagnostic applications.
Sophisticated yet easy-to-fabricate “SupraSensors” will be developed based on hybrid zeolitic materials whose binding cavities are modulated by cofactors, thereby mimicking enzyme pockets. SupraSensors will be functional and directly applicable for molecular diagnostics in urine, saliva, and blood and will be of utility in point-of-care units and personal homes. Emphasis is given to the detection of metabolites that are important disease indicators.

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EU Pathfinder Consortium "ECLIPSE"

Coordinated by the University of Bologna, the new European Pathfinder project "ECLIPSE" will develop electrochemiluminescence (ECL)-based assays and portable devices with a level of sensitivity equal or higher than that of molecular PCR swabs, and with much faster results. ECLIPSE aims to design and produce a nanobiotechnological platform for the detection of pathogens that is both economical, usable even by non-expert personnel, and with a high level of sensitivity and reliability.


Completed Projects

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Emmy Noether Group (Out-of-Equilibrium Sensing with Unselective Artificial Receptors)

In the second funding period of the Emmy Noether group, we have developed a novel non-equilibrium method for sensing biologically relevant analytes in aqueous media, leveraging the use of non-selective artificial receptors. Our research demonstrates that an unselectively-binding receptor may, contrary to conventional strategies in supramolecular chemosensor sensing, be sufficient for the simultaneous identification and quantification of analytes. Our approach brings to light previously unconsidered analyte-indicative kinetic information, making it experimentally accessible for analyte identification. With the principles laid out in this research, we foresee the possibility of employing cost-effective and robust artificial receptors for sensing applications in practical scenarios. This is a breakthrough, given the previously considered constraint of low binding selectivity of artificial receptors and hosts.

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Emmy Noether Group Emmy Noether Group (In Vitro and In Vivo Sensing of (Bio)organic Analytes with Novel High-Affinity Receptors)

The completed first stage of the Emmy Noether group revolved around the real-time detection of (bio)chemical analytes. We focused on chemosensors comprising a molecular receptor and a signal transducer due to their ease of implementation, chemical robustness, and cost-effectiveness, especially when compared to antibody-based biosensors. Our challenge was that most known chemosensors for organic biomolecules were unsuitable for in vivo or routine in vitro use due to low affinity for the desired organic analytes in aqueous media. We addressed this issue by devising a new receptor design strategy that utilizes high-energy water release as the driving force for binding. We significantly improved the design of previously used, labile self-assembled receptors; Our stabilized chemosensors were successfully used to detect metabolites and drugs in biofluids. We also applied immobilized chemosensors to flow systems and for detection with surface-coupled sensors (lab on a chip), facilitating blood, saliva, and urine detection. Additionally, our detailed calorimetric studies with these and other hosts have contributed to a deeper understanding of the non-classical hydrophobic effect and its significance for host-guest binding in water.

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SPP 1807 "Control of London Dispersion Interactions in Molecular Chemistry"

The Priority Programme 1807 'Control of London Dispersion Interactions in Molecular Chemistry' of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) was an ambitious project that targeted a thorough understanding and quantification of London dispersion interactions in molecular systems. Recognizing dispersion as a crucial factor for molecular aggregation, impacting thermodynamic stability, molecular recognition, and chemical selectivity, this program sought to develop chemical design principles capitalizing on dispersion interactions. The aim was to construct novel molecular structures and facilitate unique chemical reactions. This required an integrative approach, bringing together synthesis, spectroscopy, and theory to quantitatively analyze dispersion interactions in various model systems. Amid several challenges, the project accentuated structural studies of dispersion interactions, their effects on reactivity and catalysis, and the development of tools for their elucidation.