Our goal is to build ultra-miniaturized molecular devices and machines that can be combined into autonomously functioning systems ("robots") capable of executing user-defined tasks. At the moment we are primarily concerned with constructing hardware. Inspired by the structural sophistication and the rich functionalities of natural molecular motors and of viruses, we investigate how to adapt the physical principles underlying the formation of these natural objects for our purposes. Important principles are self-assembly, polymer folding and the fact that structures can be encoded in polymer building block sequences. Molecular self-assembly with DNA is an attractive route toward implementing these principles to create synthetic molecular machinery. DNA origami in particular enables building nanodevices that can already be employed for making new discoveries in biomolecular physics and protein science.
In the long term we hope to create molecular devices and autonomous systems that have practical benefits for everyday life.
We pursue potential uses in medicine for example in the form of new antiviral therapies (see also the virofight.eu project).
We are a partner laboratory of the Max Planck School Matter to Life.
A short summary of our vision and current activities as of 2022.
Recent publications from this laboratory:
A.K. Pumm, W. Engelen, E. Kopperger, J. Isensee, et al: "A DNA origami rotary ratchet motor", NATURE 2022
C. Sigl, E.M. Willner, W. Engelen, J. Kretzmann, et al: "Programmable icosahedral shell system for virus trapping", NATURE MATERIALS 2021
K. Wagenbauer, C. Sigl, and H. Dietz: "Gigadalton-scale shape-programmable DNA assemblies", NATURE 2017
F. Praetorius, B. Kick, K. Behler, M. Honemann, D. Weuster-Botz, and H. Dietz: "Biotechnological mass production of DNA origami", NATURE 2017
We are thankful for financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft via the Excellence Clusters CIPSM and NIM, through the SFB863, and via the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz Prize program. Further support comes from the European Research Council.