Martin Fussenegger (ETH Zurich)

Martin Fussenegger (ETH Zurich)

Butler Seminar Series

Event Date/Location

September 18, 2019 -
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Thomas Laboratory 003


  • Martin Fussenegger / ETH Zurich

    ETH Zurich, Dept. of Biosystems Science & Engineering

    Martin Fussenegger is Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH Zurich in Basel as well as at the University of Basel. His research focuses on mammalian cell engineering, in particular on the assembly of synthetic gene circuits that process complex control and closed-loop expression logic as well as on the production of theranostic designer cell implants that interface with host metabolism to correct prominent metabolic disorders. Martin Fussenegger graduated with Werner Arber at the Biocenter of the University of Basel (1992), obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology (1994) at the Max Planck Institute of Biology (Tübingen, Germany) and continued his postdoctoral studies on host-pathogen interactions at the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology (Berlin, 1995). He then joined the ETH Institute of Biotechnology (1996), where he received his habilitation in 2000, and became Swiss National Science Foundation Professor of Molecular Biotechnology in 2002, prior to being awarded a Chair in Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the ETH Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering in 2004. On a presidential mission, he moved to Basel in 2008 to build up the D-BSSE, the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering of the ETH Zurich. Martin Fussenegger received the Gaden Award, the Merck Cell Culture Engineering Award, the Medal of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), the Gutenberg Chair Excellence Award, two consecutive Advanced Grant Awards of the European Research Council and the James E. Bailey Award. Martin Fussenegger is a member of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW), EMBO and a foreign member of the United States of America National Academy of Engineering (NAE).


Designing Cell-Based Treatment Strategies of the Future

Since Paracelsus’ (1493-1541) definition that the dose makes the drug, the basic treatment strategies have largely remained unchanged. Following diagnosis of a disease the doctor prescribes specific doses of small-molecule drugs or protein pharmaceuticals which interfere with disease-associated molecular targets. However, this treatment concept lacks any diagnostic feedback, prophylactic impact and dynamic dosage regimen. We have pioneered the concept of metabolic prostheses which, akin to mechanical prosthesis replacing defective body parts, interface with host metabolism to detect and correct metabolic disorders. Metabolic prostheses consist of designer cells containing synthetic sensor-effector gene networks which detect critical levels of disease metabolites, processes pathological input with Boolean logic and fine-tune in-situ production and release of protein therapeutics in a seamless, self-sufficient and closed-loop manner. When implanted inside insulated, immunoprotective and autovascularizing microcontainers the metabolic prostheses connect to the bloodstream, constantly monitor the levels of disease-associated metabolites and trigger an immediate therapeutic response to prevent, attenuate or correct the disease. With their unique characteristic to dynamically link diagnosis to dose-specific in-situ production and delivery of protein pharmaceuticals, metabolic protheses will enable new treatment strategies in the future. To highlight the impact of synthetic biology on future biomedical applications, we will present our latest generation of remote-controlled gene switches, biosensor circuits and metabolic prostheses tailored to diagnose, prevent and cure high-prevalence medical conditions including diabetes, cancer, pain, and multidrug-resistant pathogenic bacterica.


Free and open to the university community and the public.


Jared Toettcher, Department of Molecular Biology