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Functional and stimuli-responsive polymer surfaces


     Group Leader: Pavel Levkin

     tel.: +49 721 608 29175
     fax: +49 721 608 24673
     email: levkin∂kit.edu

     External webpage: http://www.levkingroup.com/

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We are a young research group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and at the University of Heidelberg that uses organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, cell biology and microbiology approaches to develop innovative research tools and to answer important biological questions.

The goal of our research is to gain better understanding of biological interfaces and to advance our ability to effectively control and direct behavior of eukaryotic cells and bacteria. We are developing biologically active functional polymer surfaces and materials, "smart" switchable polymer surfaces, and gradient surfaces, which we use for investigation of biointerfaces, for studying cell- or bacteria-surface interactions, for studying biofouling and for creating "smart" culture devices. Our motivation is to create polymer films and coatings that will improve performance of existing biomedical devices, implants and cell culture dishes. Our research is very interdisciplinary and we closely collaborate with biologists, microbiologists and physicists.





Our third Advanced Materials paper this year has been accepted.

In this case, it is a review "Combinatorial Approach to Nanoarchitectonics for Nonviral Delivery of Nucleic Acids". Congratulations Mijanur!



Another paper has been accepted in Nano Letters. Congratulations to Mona Jaggy and all co-authors including Prof. Bastmayer and Dr. Blattner (KIT) for an excellent collaboration!

The title of our paper is

"Hierarchical Micro-Nano Surface Topography Promotes Long-term Maintenance of Undifferentiated Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells"

In this paper we present evidence that hierarchical surface roughness at the micro and nano scale promotes long-term maintenance of undifferentiated stem cells.



Our paper "Freestanding MOF Microsheets with Defined Size and Geometry using Superhydrophobic-Superhydrophilic Arrays" has been accepted in Advanced Materials Interfaces. Congratulations to the all co-authors including Wenqian and Dr. Manuel Tsotsalas from IFG, KIT.



Anna´s Advanced Materials paper is online.



Xin has successfully defended his PhD in Heidelberg University. Congratulations!



Tina Cruz and Ivana Pini join our group. Welcome!



Anna Popova´s paper has been accepted in Advanced Materials. Congratulations, Anna!
This interesting paper introduces a novel miniaturized platform for high-throughput screening of cells in individual microdroplets formed on a superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic microarray. The title of the paper is "Droplet-Array (DA) Sandwich Chip: a Versatile Platform for High Throughput Cell Screenings Based on Superhydrophobic-Superhydrophilic Micropatterning".



Celebration of 20th anniversary of Helmholtz Association in Berlin.

Angela Merkel attended the event and gave a good speech about Helmholtz Association and future developments.



Our new very interesting paper titled "Reversible and Rewritable Surface Functionalization and Patterning via Photodynamic Disulfide Exchange" has been accepted to Advanced Materials. Congratulations to Xin Du!



Our ERC Proof-of-Concept Grant "CellScreenChip" has been preliminary accepted. The goal of this grant is to perform precommerciallization of a Cell-Screen-Chip to establish a platform for miniaturized cell-based diagnostic applications.



Congratulations to Wenqian and Linxian with the acceptance of his paper by Angewandte Chemie! Wenqian and Linxian introduced a tetrazole-thiol reaction - a novel photochemical reaction that enables highly efficient surface functionalization and polymer conjugation. Well done!



Pavel Levkin receives the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize from the DFG and BMBF

Pavel Levkin erhält Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Preis

Wichtigste deutsche Auszeichnung für den Forschungsnachwuchs – Polymerchemiker entwickelt neuartige Materialien für die molekulare Zellbiologie

Der Chemiker Dr. Pavel Levkin vom Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) erhält den Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Preis 2015. Die von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) verliehene Auszeichnung gilt als wichtigster Preis für den Forschungsnachwuchs in Deutschland. Zu den wissenschaftlichen Schwerpunkten von Pavel Levkin gehören die Erforschung von Zell-Oberflächen-Interaktionen, die Entwicklung von biofunktionalen Materialien und super-wasserabstoßenden Oberflächen sowie Nanopartikeln für den gezielten Medikamenten- und Gentransport. Ein großer wissenschaftlicher Erfolg gelang ihm mit der Synthese von lipidartigen Molekülen zur Genmodifikation von Zellen.



Tina Cruz joins our group as a PhD student. Tina will work on the application of the Droplet Microarray platform for screening of stem cells in order to investigate factors that can be used to control stem cell differentiation and maintenance of pluripotency. Welcome, Tina!



Our paper describing a novel transparent reactive superhydrophobic surface based on silicon nanofilaments has been accepted for publication in Nano Letters. Congratulations to all the authors!

Li, Junsheng; Li, Linxian; Du, Xin; Feng, Wenqian; Welle, Alexander; Trapp, Oliver; Grunze, Michael; Hirtz, Michael; Levkin, Pavel
"Reactive Superhydrophobic Surface and Its Photo Induced Disulfide-ene and Thiol-ene (Bio)functionalization"



Victoria has successfully defended her PhD at the University of Heidelberg, Department of Applied Physical Chemistry. Congratulations!



Erica has successfully defended her PhD at the KIT. Congratulations!



Xin´s paper on "UV-Triggered Dopamine Polymerization: Control of Polymerization, Surface Coating and Photopatterning" has been accepted to Advanced Materials. Congratulations!



Linxian has accepted a postdoctoral position in The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the MIT, USA. Congratulations!



Wenqian´s two publications have been accepted at the same time in Advanced Materials Interfaces and Journal of Materials Chemistry C. Congratulations!

W. Feng, L. Li, E. Ueda, J. Li, S.Heißler, A. Welle, O. Trapp, P. A. Levkin Surface Patterning via Thiol-Yne Click Chemistry: an Extremely Fast and Versatile Approach to Superhydrophilic- Superhydrophobic Micropatterns. Adv. Mater. Interfaces



Alexander Efremov graduates from Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg with Magna Cum Lauda. Congratulations, Alexander!



Dr. Pavel Levkin receives the Ewald-Wicke-Prize, which will be awarded at the Bunsentagung 2014 to be held at the University of Hamburg on 29-31st of May.



Linxian Li has just graduated from Heidelberg University with Magna Cum Laude. Congratulations, Linxian!



Incella GmbH is a start-up company that developes and commercializes novel gene-delivery systems. Incella is a result of one of our research projects that was finished by Linxian two years ago in cooperation with Gary Davidson´s lab at the KIT. Now, just two years after that project three novel transfection reagents (ScreenFect A, ScreenFect siRNA and ScreenFect mRNA) are available in Europe, Japan, China and soon in the US. Incella GmbH has moved to the High-Tech Inkubator at the KIT where the company currently rents one chemistry and one cell biology laboratory and employs 8 scientists.



Linxian´s and Junsheng´s Angewandte paper "Direct UV-Induced Functionalization of Surface Hydroxy Groups by Thiol–Ol Chemistry" is online and has been selected as a HOT PAPER by the editor.



Junsheng has successfully defended his PhD in Heidelberg University. Congratulations!



Check our laboratory´s youtube channel. The interviews are kind of funny, but the macro videos of droplets, superhydrophobic surfaces and micropatterns are interesting. High-density arrays of square microdroplets, or unusual ring-shaped droplets are something what we do not often see in our real life.



Prof. João F. Mano visits our group and gives a talk on "Ex-vivo applications of biomimetic polymeric surfaces for biomedical applications".



Dr. Levkin represents KIT at the European Career Fair at the MIT in Boston.



Dr. Anna Popova and Mr. Konstantin Demir have joined our group. They will work on the development of a new platform for high-throughput screening of live cells using the Dropletmicroarray approach as a part of the ERC Starting Grant. Welcome!



Linxian´s and Junsheng´s paper "Photoinduced Surface Modification by Thiol-ol Chemistry" has been accepted to Angewandte Chemie. Congratulations!



Junsheng´s and Yin´s paper "Direct three-dimensional imaging of polymer-water interfaces by nanoscale hard X-ray phase tomography" has been accepted to Soft Matter. Congrats!



Alexander´s paper on "Digital liquid patterning: a versatile method for maskless generation of liquid patterns and gradients" was accepted to Advanced Materials Interfaces. Congratulations!



Cover for the current issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials:
Erica Ueda and Pavel A. Levkin present a simple method to produce precise micropatterns of hydrophobic liquids by using hydrophilic–hydrophobic substrates. On page 1425, these micropatterns are shown to possess long-term stability, excellent cell-repellency, no cytotoxicity, and higher efficiency than conventional PEG or superhydrophobic surfaces in controlling eukaryotic cell adhesion.


Our spin-off company Incella GmbH is looking for a chemist.



Junsheng´s paper on "Liquid-infused slippery surfaces show marine anti-biofouling properties" was accepted to ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Congratulations!



Figure from Erica´s paper in Advanced Healthcare Materials was accepted as a front cover for the next journal issue. Congratulations! (we will publish the cover art as soon as it appears in the journal)



The research in our group and the ERC Starting Grant are highlighted in the KIT Magazine for research teaching and innovation

pdf link



Our 10th paper for this year has been just accepted to Biomaterials. The paper describes new Boronate-Dextran pH-responsive nanoparticles for drug delivery. Congratulations Linxian!



Priscila´s and Erica´s paper on a novel method for the replication of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic patterns has been almost accepted (minor revision) to ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Congrats Erica and Priscila!



(A) Junsheng´s paper has been published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Congrats!

Hydrophobic Liquid-Infused Porous Polymer Surfaces for Antibacterial Applications

In this paper we study of antibacterial behavior of SLIPS coatings prepared on porous polymethacrylate films and show unexpected bacteria-specific behavior.

(B) Wenqian´s first paper has been published in a new nanotechnology journal: Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. Congratulations!

Porous polymer coatings as substrates for the formation of high-fidelity micropatterns by quill-like pens



The photo is not really perfect, but the text is correct. KIT´s press release about the ERC grant.



Erica´s next paper has been published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. Congratulations!  



View Dr. Levkin´s presentation at the 2013 Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting in San Francisco.



Press-release about our recent review in Advanced Materials:
Biologie: Anwendung von wasserliebenden und wasserabstoßenden Mikroschichten


Wenqian Feng joins our group to perform his PhD (Department of Organic Chemistry, Heidelberg University). Welcome!



Erica´s paper in Advanced Materials will appear on the (back) cover of the journal. Congrats!




The award amounts to 6000 US dollars. This year 30 students in Germany have received this prestigious award. The ceremony for students in Germany will be held on April 6th in the Chinese embassy in Berlin.



Our review on "Emerging Applications of Superhydrophilic-Superhydrophobic Micropatterns" is now online in Advanced Materials.



Priscila Auad, Thiago Felipe and Joao Machado join our group for 1 year as exchange students between Brasil Universities and Heidelberg University. Welcome!



Erica´s paper "DropletMicroarray: Facile Formation of Arrays of Microdroplets and Hydrogel Micropads for Cell Screening Applications" has been accepted to Lab on a Chip. Congratulations!



A patent application describing a novel type of cell- and bacteria-resistant coating has been submitted to the European Patent Office. Congratulations to Erica and Junsheng! The work is a cooperation with the Schwartz group in IFG, KIT.



Linxian´s paper on combinatorial synthesis of vectors for gene-delivery via thiol-yne click chemistry has appeared [Opens external link in new window] online in Biomaterials



Our new paper "A Biomimetic Lipid Library for Gene Delivery through Thiol-Yne Click Chemistry" has been just accepted to Biomaterials. Congratulations to Linxian!



A patent application describing the DropletArray method - a new application of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic micropatterns - has been submitted to the European Patent Office. Congratulations to Erica!



Martin Maiwald and Felix Braun join our group as internship students to continue projects started by Aniket and Asritha.



Kubilay Demir finishes his PhD in the group of Prof. Boutros (DKFZ) and joins our group as a postdoc. Welcome! Kubilay is going to work on the application of our superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic microarrays for the high-throughput cell screening.



Proposal for a non-contact liquid dispenser system (100.000 €) was supported by the Helmholtz Association.



Asritha Nallapaneni and Aniket Gudadhe join our group as interns for summer. Welcome!



Our paper on "Printable Superhydrophilic−Superhydrophobic Micropattern" was just accepted to Langmuir. Congratulations to Junsheng, Erica, Linxian and Asritha!



Incella GmbH is founded! Incella is a startup that will commercialize new gene- and drug-delivery systems developed in our group and in collaborations. The first product – highly efficient transfection reagent ScreenFect A – is already on the market in Germany, China and Austria. ScreenFect is a result of a collaborative  project with the group of Dr. Gary Davidson. More info is on the website: www.incella.com



Our website is updated.



Konny joins our group as a technical assistant. Welcome!



Congratulations to Florian who has joined the group of Yi Liu in Berkeley (LBNL) (http://foundry.lbl.gov/liugroup/index.html) as an intern student.



Xin, Bai and Girish join the group as PhD students. All have received external scholarships to pursue their graduate work. Congratulations and welcome!



Results of Florian’s and Erica’s work are accepted to Angewandte Chemie



Results of David’s work are published in Advanced Materials http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201101203/abstract 



Results of Florian´s research work lead to receiving the Helmholtz-Enterprise grant for opening a start-up company. More information can be found at the Helmholtz Association website or at the KIT website.



EU patent application based on Florian´s results is submitted with the help of the KIT and the Müller-Boré & Partner law firm.



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Alexander Efremov has joined the group



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Die Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft fördert fünf neue Nachwuchsgruppen am KIT. Damit können fünf herausragende junge Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler in Karlsruhe ihre eigenen Forschungsgruppen aufbauen und leiten. Jede Nachwuchsgruppenleitungsstelle ist mit einem Jahresbudget von mindestens 250.000 Euro über fünf Jahre und der Option auf eine unbefristete Anstellung verbunden.

Am Institut für Toxikologie und Genetik (ITG) des KIT widmet sich die Gruppe "Functional and Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Surfaces" von Dr. Pavel Levkin gemeinsam mit Forschern der Universität Heidelberg der Synthese neuartiger Materialien auf Polymer-Basis mit bestimmten Eigenschaften, was Morphologie, Oberflächenchemie und Elastizität betrifft, und untersucht das Verhalten von Zellen und bakteriellen Biofilmen auf der Oberfläche solcher Materialien.





Updated: December 10, 2015