Heinrich Emanuel Merck Award 2015 Granted to Professor Petra Dittrich
Merck announced today that the 2015 Heinrich Emanuel Merck Award for Analytical Science will be given to Professor Petra Dittrich from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich (Switzerland) for her pioneering work on immunological assays combined with microfluidic platforms for single-cell analysis. The award, which is worth € 15,000, will be presented to Professor Dittrich at Euroanalysis 2015 conference in Bordeaux (France) on September 10, 2015.
Microfluidics is a promising technology and provides a huge toolbox for analytical and bioanalytical methods in general. With respect to cell analysis, the emergence of microfluidic platforms has paved the way to novel analytical strategies for positioning, treatment and observation of living cells, for creating of chemically defined liquid environments, and for tailoring mechanical or physical conditions. These methodological improvements have revealed fascinating insights into cellular processes. In this context, the field of single-cell analysis is of particular interest, with relevance in many areas such as systems biology, medical diagnostic, pharmaceutical sciences and biotechnology.
Professor Dittrich's group introduced a method that facilitates the chemical analysis of individual cells, i.e. the quantification of intracellular compounds such as proteins and metabolites. The new method combines microfluidic cell trapping and isolation with the analytical power of immunoassays, specifically enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Single cells are captured in a defined volume as small as a few hundred picoliters. This tiny analytical chamber is the key requirement for a highly sensitive detection of the target molecules directly in the cell lysate, even when present in very low copy numbers. The analytical microfluidic platform is applicable to a wide range of molecules, but also to various cell types including mammalian cells, yeast cells and bacteria and therefore expected to open new approaches for single-cell metabolomic and proteomic studies.
Moreover, it is a great means to investigate cell models such as lipid vesicles.
“Petra Dittrich is a very talented and successful scientist,” explained Professor Reinhard Niessner (Technical University of Munich, Germany), chairman of the international jury for the Heinrich Emanuel Merck Award. “We decided to grant this award to her for her pioneering work and advances in the research field of bioanalytics.”
Petra Dittrich (41) has been Associate Professor for Bioanalytics at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) since 2014. Her research in the field of lab-on-chip-technologies focuses on the miniaturization of high-sensitivity devices for chemical and biological analyses, and microfluidic-aided organization of materials.
German-born Dittrich studied chemistry at Bielefeld University (Germany) and Universidad de Salamanca (Spain). She earned her PhD degree at the Max Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI Göttingen, Germany) in 2003 for her thesis on fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in microfluidic channels. After another year as a postdoctoral fellow at the MPI Göttingen, she had a postdoctoral appointment at the Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS Dortmund, Germany) (2004-2008). Her research stays were at Cornell University (2002) and the University of Tokyo (2005). In 2008, she became Assistant Professor at the Organic Chemistry Laboratories of the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (ETH Zurich).
For over 25 years, the Heinrich Emanuel Merck Award has been recognizing scientists under the age of 45 whose work focuses on new methods in chemical analysis and the development thereof in applications aimed at improving the quality of human life, for example in fields such as life science, environmental protection and the biosciences.