EPFL BioE Talks SERIES "Droplet Microfluidics in Antibody Discovery, Immune Repertoire Sequencing and Personalized Cancer Therapy"


Event details

Date 19.10.2020
Hour 16:3017:00
Speaker Prof. Christoph Merten, Institute of Bioengineering, EPFL, Lausanne (CH)
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars

(note that this talk is number two of a double-feature seminar - see details of the first talk here)

We have developed fully integrated droplet-based microfluidic platforms for the screening of therapeutic antibodies. In these systems tiny aqueous droplets (picoliter volumes) surrounded by oil serve as independent assay vessels. The technology allows the direct screening of several hundred thousand primary, non-immortalized murine or even human B-cells for the secretion of antibodies that do not just bind to a drug target, but functionally inhibit it. Furthermore, we have established advanced single-cell antibody sequencing protocols enabling the screening of immune repertoires of COVID-19 infected patients for neutralizing antibodies. Taken together this should open the way for many new approaches in drug discovery, including personalized immunotherapy or the use of antibodies to control cellular pathways at will.
In parallel to this we have developed screening platforms enabling rapid identification of optimal drug cocktails for personalized cancer therapy. Results are available within 24h after surgery at consumables costs of less than 150 US$ per screen. The power of this platform has been demonstrated using cancer cell lines, xenograft mouse models and even human tumor biopsies. We now envisage first clinical trials and the establishment of a startup company making the technology widely available.

  • Studies of biochemistry and organic chemistry at the University of Frankfurt, Germany (1999-2004)
  • PhD at the Paul Ehrlich Institut Langen, Germany, on "directed evolution of of gene therapy vectors" (2004)
  • Postdoc in Cambridge UK and Strasbourg France on non-microfluidic droplet technology and applications (2004-2005)
  • Junior group leader focussing on droplet microfluidics in Strasbourg (Liebig Award of the Fonds of the German Chemical Industry 2005-2009), after a short internship in Dave Weitz lab (Harvard)
  • Group Leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, developing droplet microfluidics for biomedical applications (2010-2019)
  • 2017: Sole scientific founder of Velabs Therapeutics (a microfluidic antibody discovery startup)
  • 2020 Associate Professor at EPFL, and Adjunct Scientist at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Lausanne Branch)
  • Coordinator of the TheraMe! Personalized Cancer Therapy Consortium.

Zoom link (with registration) for attending remotely: https://go.epfl.ch/EPFLBioETalks

IMPORTANT NOTICE: due to restrictions resulting from the ongoing Covid-19 situation, this seminar can be followed via Zoom web-streaming only, following prior one-time registration through the link above.

Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Registration required