Research Group of Biofunctional Materials

  • Levkin Research Group
  • Water droplets on a SH3
  • Water droplets on a superhydrophobic surface
  • Preparation of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic arrays
  • Fluorescent microscope images of different cell lines on the array
  • Microfluidic channels on superhydrophilic-superhydrophobic pattern
  • Creating superhydrophilic micropatterns
  • Advanced Materials 2013
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About the group

Our research group is located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and affiliated with the University of Heidelberg. Our research is focused on the synthesis and application of biofunctional materials, surfaces and nanoparticles. We are working on the development of methods for surface functionalization with an emphasis on photochemical techniques, surface micropatterning, wettability and superhydrophobicity. We use developed surface functionalization methods for the fabrication of superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic micropatterns. Produced surfaces and materials are used for different biological applications. 

We also work on the development of stimuli-responsive polymer nanoparticles and liposomes for drug delivery and gene-delivery applications. One result of this work is a spin-off company Incella GmbH founded in 2012 together with Dr. Davidson (ITG, KIT) and commerciallizing novel cell transfection reagents under the trademark "ScreenFect".

Our group is funded through the Helmholtz-University Young Investigators Grant (VH-NG-621) and the ERC Starting Grant as well as other funding agencies.






We are pleased to welcome Prof. Jeong Hoon Byeon as a guest in our group. Prof. Byeon received a grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea for a sabbatical in our group. More info about Jeong´s research at Yeungnam University you can find on his website:



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


Congratulations to Linxian Li and Mark Schmitt for the acceptance of our paper on the use of v6-peptides decorating nanoparticles to target metastatic cells overexpressing expressing CD44-v6 receptors. This collaborative work (with Prof. Orian-Rousseau, KIT) will be published in Advanced Science.



Our next Advanced Materials paper has been accepted for publication. Congratulations to Isabel! The title of this paper is "Fabrication of Hydrogel Particles of Defined Shapes using Hydrophilic-Superhydrophobic Micropatterns" and it is a collaboration with the group of Prof. Mano (University of Aveiro/University of Minho)



Congratulations to Tina for winning the first poster prize at a conference in Cambridge!



Anna's paper has been published in RSC Advances: "Droplet-microarray on superhydrophobic-superhydrophilic patterns for high-throughput live cell screenings"



Our group photo 2016



Our paper "Single-Step Fabrication of High-Density Microdroplet Arrays of Low-Surface-Tension Liquids" has been accepted in Advanced Materials. Congratulations to all co-authors included Wenqian!




Congratulations to Dr. Anna Popova for receiving the Poster Award at a conference on Personalized Health organized by EMBL and Stanford in Heidelberg.



Congratulations to Dr. Mijanur Molla for receiving the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship!


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.



Our group photo 2015



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.

On the photo, right to left: Dr. Merkel, Prof. Mlynek (current head of Helmholtz Association), Prof. Wiestler (future head of Helmholtz Association, currently head of DKFZ):



A PhD position is open. Motivated and experienced organic chemists are welcome to apply by sending all necessary application documents including a cover letter explaining their motivation to join our group to "levkin at" with "PhD applicant" in the subject field.



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!


Some pictures from a ceremony in Berlin where the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize was awarded:

Mit DFG-Generalsekretärin Dorothee Dzwonnek (l.) und Staatssekretärin Cornelia Quennet-Thielen (r.)

More info at DFG.


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.


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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!