portrait of Dr ContiniISSF Springboard Fellowship

Understanding cell motility processes through the realisation of an innovative self propelling and chemotactic protocell.

Understanding cellular processes through the realisation of an innovative stimuliresponsive protocells.

This project focused on understanding the cellular behaviors in response to external environmental changes thought the realization of minimal model systems. These systems are generated through the application of state-of-the-art, bottom-up synthetic biology and membrane engineering techniques to generate an artificial cell-like structures.
The impact of this project is two-fold: (i) a fundamental understanding of basic biological processes and mechanisms using a minimal system; (ii) the translation of the engineered cell-like systems capabilities into biomedical applications for drug delivery and bio-sensing. The project will lead to the development of a minimum cell-like systems that will underpin a real understanding of the motility in real cells, together with other biological processes such as membrane asymmetry and surface topology. Our human body incorporates the most elaborated nanoscale technologies for excellence. In order to grow, divide and communicate to each other, our cells are continuously releasing and up taking billions of molecules in the environment. One of the most exciting challenges in nanotechnology is the development of artificial life-like systems capable of autonomous and directional motion in response of their environment and adapt to its changes. Setting inanimate matter in motionprovides crucial insights for the realisation of artificial life.Realising an artificial motile life-like system, controlling its motion and understanding its spatiotemporal organisation mimicking the biologicalcommunication, will actively advance our understanding of the origin of lifeand push the boundaries of scientific discovery. Dr. Contini’s research combines several areas including synthetic biology, chemical biology, physical chemistry of colloidal science and model membranes engineering. Dr. Contini’s project focus on the realisation of bio-inspired and life-like soft matter systems with applications to bottom-up synthetic biology and drug delivery.


Dr Contini’s research interest lies in the field of bottom-upsynthetic biology with a focus on the design of synthetic motile systems for biotechnological and biomedical applications. After completing a MSc in pharmacological and pharmaceutical sciences (University of Padua, Italy and University of Sheffield, UK), she pursued a PhD in physical chemistry applied in devices for drug delivery (UCL, UK), followed by a postdoctoral position focused on investigating the interaction of nanomaterials with model lipid membranes at the bio-nano interface (ICL, UK) and an ISSF Fellowship on understanding cellular processes through the use of innovative protocells (ICL, UK).