blank LMU Munich Faculty for Chemistry and Pharmacy


The Merkel Lab is currently funded by the following grants:

European Research Council
ERC-2022-COG-101088587 April 2023 until March 2028
Rational and Simulation-Supported Design of Inhalable RNA Nanocarriers
The aim of this project is reducing wet lab efforts by establishing machine learning algorithms based on experimental data for prediciting improved nanocarriers in a use case of antiviral siRNA against respiratory virus infections.
PI: Olivia Merkel

Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action
AIRMAIL May 2023 until April 2026
Accelerated development of RNA-based therapies and lipid formulations through artificial intelligence
The goal of this "future project" is to develop a self-learning algorithm supported by artificial intelligence that can predict formulation parameters, individual formulations and new lipid designs in the future.
PIs: Hagen Richter, Adriano Indolese, Olivia Merkel, Christoph Arenz

Munich Multiscale Biofabrication Network
Development of electrospun fiber substrates for the study and therapeutic inhibition of breast cancer metastasis
The goal of this study is to develop electrospun fiber substrates on which breast cancer metastatis can be mimicked for the development of anti-metastatic treatments based on RNA.

Volkswagen Foundation
AZ-9A872 Oct 2021 until Sept 2024
Development of an ex vivo lung tissue model for the study of antiviral siRNA
The goal of this study is to develop an ex vivo model based on human lung tissue to study the efficacy of antiviral siRNA
PIs: Merkel, Michler, Burgstaller

Elite Network Bavaria

BMBF Future Cluster


siCoV July 2023 until June 2026
Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 with short interfering RNA (siRNA) in a lung-on-a-chip model
The aim of this project is the development of a lung-on-a-chip infection model for screening antiviral siRNA formulations for the treatment of respiratory viral infections.

Previous Funding

European Research Council
Dry Powder Formulation of RNA Nanoparticles for Inhalation and Improved Storage and Transport Conditions (RNhale)

The goal of this study is to establish technical and commercial proof-of-concept for our existing and protected protocols to be transformed into a platform technology with the long-term goal of licensing agreements with large pharmaceutical companies which are equipped for continuous manufacturing of large scales of dry powder RNA formulations.
PI: Olivia Merkel

CoG Pilot Funding Jan 2022-Dec 2022
Development of better RNA nanocarriers for inhalation delivery
The goal of this pilot study is to develop better polymer-based nanocarriers for RNA delivery to the lung.
PI: Merkel
BacDefense Nov 2021 until Oct 2022
BacDefense is harnessing the diversity of bacterial defenses as a novel source of antiviral agents.
PI: Beisel, co-PIs: Fackler, Lehr, Merkel, Munschauer
European Research Council
ERC-2014-StG – 637830 October 2015 until December 2021
Biocompatible nanoparticles for T cell targeted siRNA delivery as novel asthma therapy
The goal of this study is to develop an inhalable powder therapy of nanoparticles that deliver siRNA against the Th2 transcription factor GATA-3 specifically into activated T cells ex vivo and in vivo to inhibit the downstream inflammatory cascades.
PI: Olivia Merkel

Center for NanoScience (CeNS)
Pilot Project 2020
Development of a Lung-on-a-Chip Model as Screening Device for Assessing Antiviral Pulmonary siRNA Delivery
The goal of the project is to develop a lung-on-a-chip model for screening efficacy of pulmonary siRNA delivery in terms of mucus diffusion and intracellular uptake in an environment mimicking the conditions in the lung with decreased translocation into the circulation.
PIs: Merkel, von Guttenberg (ibidi)

2014_A299 July 2016 until April 2020
Novel Carrier Systems for Delivery of Biologics across the Blood Brain Barrier
The goal of this study is to develop novel carrier systems that encapsulate nucleic acids, proteins and both for therapeutic delivery across the BBB for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
PI: Fricker, co-PIs: Merkel, Müller
Fondazione Ricerca Fibrosi Cistica
FFC#23/2017 September 2017 until August 2019
Enabling pulmonary delivery of siRNA in cystic fibrosis lung inflammation: therapeutic potential of hybrid lipid/polymer nanoparticles
The aim of this study is to develop lipid/polymer hybrid nanoparticles for pulmonary delivery of siRNA against NFkB to address lung inflammation in cystic fibrosis.
PIs: Ungaro, Merkel
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Muskelkranke
Me7/1 May 2017 until April 2018
Genome editing for DMPK-CTG-repeat expansion via receptor mediated targeted delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 vectors to myoblasts
The aim of this study is to develop CRISPR-Cas9 nanoparticles targeted toward myoblasts for replacement genome editing of repeat units as potential treatment for muscular dystrophy.
PI: Merkel

Nanosystems Initiative Munich January 2017 until October 2017
Cellular Delivery Strategies of a Novel Kras Inhibitor
The aim of this study is to formulate a small molecule that has been shown to inhibit Kras in vitro as biodegradable nanoparticles for in vitro and in vivo Kras inhibition.
PIs: Vollmar and Merkel

Nanosystems Initiative Munich January 2017 until October 2017
Multifunctional mesoporous silica nanoparticles for siRNA delivery against TNFα as potential therapy for rheumatoid arthritis
The aim of this study is to develop MSNs that are loaded with siRNA and targeted toward activated macrophages for TNFa downregulation.
PIs: Merkel and Bein

AbbVie Deutschland GmbH
Nose-to-Brain Delivery
The goal of our joint project is the development of nanoformulations for efficient drug delivery to the brain via intranasal administration.
PI: Olivia Merkel
Bavarian Research Foundation, Daiichi-Sankyo Europe
AZ-1449-20C Nov 2020 until Dec 2021
mRNA Delivery to Dentritic Cells for specific, efficient immunization
The goal of this study is to develop a well tolerated RNA-based vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Modified and stable mRNA coding for the receptor binding domain of the virus will be encapsulated in a nanocarrier system for optimized activation of lymphocytes and an active immunization.
PIs: Urbanetz, Merkel