Nicola Porzberg

Host: Max Planck Institute for Medical Research
Supervisors: Prof. Kai Johnsson  (MPI), Koch (MPI)

ESR 5: Semi-synthetic nanoswitches for continuous plasmonic sensing

“Being part of CONSENSE is a great opportunity to work together on the development of new biosensors, which hold promising potential to provide new means of diagnostics and disease monitoring for patients.”

The Johnsson lab is developing new biosensors for applications in point-of-care diagnostics and patient self-testing. We will design semi-synthetic biosensors to study and characterize molecular processes that are currently inaccessible. These biosensors that undergo conformational switches can be used for long-term integration of biologically relevant metabolites and key signaling molecules.

We aim to develop protein-based biosensors combining chemistry and protein engineering to detect specific signalling molecules and key metabolites in living cells. This new class of fluorescent biosensors that undergo conformational changes upon binding of the analyte of interest will allow us to study molecular processes that cannot be visualized by traditional approaches.

During my studies, I became passionate about research at the interface of chemistry and biology. The design of chemicals that enable targeted manipulation of biological systems is highly fascinating to me. Especially semisynthetic biosensor design has sparked my interest since these sensors enable precise measurement of metabolites in cells or even in blood samples. Their application in the context of health care holds promising potential, providing biosensor-based means of testing for patients in the context of personalized medicine.

I obtained my bachelor’s (2019) and master’s degree (2021) in Molecular Life Sciences at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, learning of cells work from a chemical perspective. With research experience in medicinal chemistry, working on a small molecule inhibitor towards the treatment of osteoarthritis, I joined the Johnsson lab to work on the development of new biosensors by protein engineering.