Prof. (EPFL) Dr. Kai Johnsson
Director
Phone:+49 6221 486-400

Curriculum Vitae

Office Chemical Biology
Phone:+49 6221 486-496

Recent Press Releases

Biosensor for phenylketonuria

September 14, 2018

The treatment of numerous diseases could be improved if the blood concentration of disease-relevant metabolites could be monitored at the point-of-care (POC), ideally even by the patient. A team of scientists led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has now introduced a biosensor for the accurate quantification of metabolites in small blood samples obtained from a simple finger prick. This biosensor could become an important tool for the diagnosis and management of various diseases. [more]

Nanobody-mediated optical control of GPCRs with a photoswitchable ligand

August 27, 2018

Ion channels, transporters and receptors are crucial signaling proteins in the brain whose dysfunction are often at the root of neurological disorders, such as dementia and anxiety. [more]
Because of its frequent occurrence and socio-economic relevance, Alzheimer’s disease is a major subject of biomedical research, and many pieces of the puzzle of its origin are already in place. However, methods for tackling certain important unsolved questions about the molecular basis of the disease are still missing in the researchers’ toolbox. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg have now developed a tool for studying one of the key players involved in the disease. This new marker allows tracking and imaging of the enzyme BACE1 without requiring antibodies or genetic manipulation. The marker could be valuable in the development of new therapies.

A new tool for studying Alzheimer`s disease

July 26, 2018

Because of its frequent occurrence and socio-economic relevance, Alzheimer’s disease is a major subject of biomedical research, and many pieces of the puzzle of its origin are already in place. However, methods for tackling certain important unsolved questions about the molecular basis of the disease are still missing in the researchers’ toolbox. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg have now developed a tool for studying one of the key players involved in the disease. This new marker allows tracking and imaging of the enzyme BACE1 without requiring antibodies or genetic manipulation. The marker could be valuable in the development of new therapies. [more]

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Department of Chemical Biology

The visualization and characterization of biologically relevant molecules and activities inside living cells continues to transform cell biology into a truly quantitative science. However, despite the spectacular achievements in some areas of cell biology, the majority of cellular processes still operate invisibly. Further progress will therefore depend increasingly on the development of new (fluorescent) sensors and chemical probes to target and characterize these activities. Our research addresses this need by developing and applying chemical approaches to observe and manipulate protein function in living cells. For example, we have introduced general methods for the covalent and specific labeling of fusion proteins with chemically diverse compounds that open up new ways of studying proteins (i.e. SNAP-tag, CLIP-tag and ACP-tag). We are pursuing the further development of such approaches and their application to biological problems that cannot be resolved by traditional approaches.

Currently, we are interested in the following topics:

  • Development of semisynthetic fluorescent sensor proteins to measure key metabolites in living cells.
  • Development and application of methods for characterizing protein-protein interactions.
  • Generation of small molecules for controlling protein function in living cells.
  • Engineering of new protein functions for applications in functional proteomics.
  • Synthesis of new spectroscopic probes for applications in cell biology.
  • Mechanistic studies on drug candidates.
 
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