Signalling Researcher Wilfried Weber Receives ERC Advanced Grant for Living Materials
The engineer and biologist Prof. Dr. Wilfried Weber from the University of Freiburg’s Institute of Biology II has received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his research on materials made of living cells that maintain a self-regulating equilibrium. Weber will receive 2.5 million euros over five years to develop living materials with the capacity for so-called homeostasis. “In biology, researchers use this term to describe regulatory systems that keep things like blood pressure or energy balance in equilibrium,” explains Weber.
Adaptive and sustainable materials with new properties
Although it is possible to produce living materials like cement from bacteria and building materials from fungi, they rarely maintain their properties for extended periods. “And yet, homeostasis is one of the basic principles of life,” emphasizes Weber. The research field of engineered living materials seeks to copy these basic principles to develop adaptive and sustainable materials with new properties out of living cells.
Measuring properties and automatically readjusting
The material he aims to develop consists of cells with modified genes, receptors, and signalling molecules: This would enable the materials to measure their own properties and automatically readjust if they deviate from the desired value. “It works somewhat like a thermostat in a heating system, only the entire system consists of organic components,” explains Weber.
About the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS
The fundamental findings on which this successful proposal is based come from research conducted at the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies. Weber is in the team of spokespersons of the Cluster of Excellence, whose research objective is to gain an integrative understanding of biological signalling processes across scales – from interactions of individual molecules and cells to processes in organs and entire organisms.
About the researcher
Wilfried Weber has previously received two ERC Proof of Concept Grants and one ERC Starting Grant. Since 2009, he is professor of synthetic biology at the University of Freiburg and at the research centers for signaling studies CIBSS and BIOSS. He studied biochemistry and biotechnology at the Universities of Tübingen and Strasbourg, France. He completed his doctorate and habilitation qualification at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he was also a research group leader at the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering.
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Weber
Synthetic Biology, Institute of Biology II
CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies
University of Freiburg
Tel.: +49 (0) 761/203- 97654