More information


New grant for B CUBE group leader James Sáenz and international research project

VolkswagenStiftung awards 1.5m Euro to joint research project investigating design principles of living membranes

Ilya Leventhal, Robert Ernst and James Sáenz (from left to right) © James Sáenz
Ilya Leventhal, Robert Ernst and James Sáenz (from left to right) © James Sáenz

Dr. James Sáenz, group leader at B CUBE has been awarded EUR 1.5 million together with his colleagues Prof. Maya Schuldiner (The Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel), Prof. Robert Ernst (Universitätsklinikum des Saarlandes), and Dr. Ilya Leventhal (University of Texas) by the Volkswagen Foundation within their Life program.

In the next five years, the scientists will elucidate how the membrane – a fatty layer that surrounds and protects each cell – maintains its function even in changing surroundings. Factors that membranes must adapt to are for example changing pressure as experienced in blood vessels, changes in the pH as experienced in the gut, different lipid composition in the diet etc.

With their collaborative project “Design principles of living membranes“, the researchers aim to understand ancient and basic mechanisms that membranes use to sense and adapt to the environment. The ultimate vision of the group is to build a self-maintaining and growing membrane, which is key for making a first synthetic cell.

„Life? – A fresh scientific approach to the basic principles of life” is a new funding scheme by the VolkswagenStiftung for projects at the interface between natural and life sciences. During this first funding period, 13 grants were awarded.