Dr Stefan Howorka

Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Dr Stefan Howorka

Address: Department of Chemistry, UCL
Phone No: +44 (0)20 7679 4702
Fax No: +44 (0)20 7679 7463
Extension: 24702
Photo of Stefan Howorka

Research areas of interest include:

  • Nucleic acids chemsitry
  • Chemical biology
  • DNA nanobiotechnology
  • Single-molecule biophysics



The Howorka group works within nucleic acids chemistry and develops novel chemistries and functionally enhances nucleosides, nucleotides and oligonucleotides in order to open up new applications in Chemical Biology, Single-Molecule Sensing, and the Life Sciences. Research is pursued in three areas: (i) The synthesis of nucleoside and nucleotides analogues with light-sensitive and light-controlled moieties to create new biomedically important compounds for cell biological research. (ii) The preparation of oligonucleotides with hydrophobic tags to anchor the conjugates into lipid bilayers. This has lead to the construction of new membrane-spanning DNA nanopores for next-generation single-molecule sensing. The porous structures can also be exploited for cell biological research. (iii) The creation of linker chemistries to anchor nucleic acids to inorganic surfaces for ultrasensitive biosensing approaches. In previous research, I have been working on the use of chemical research tools to investigate the structure of a prominent bacterial membrane protein.

Research Profile

Selected Publications

  1. Burns, J. Göpfrich, K., Wood, J. W., Thacker, V. V., Stulz, E., Keyser, U. F., Howorka, S. (2013) Lipid Bilayer-Spanning DNA Nanopores with a Bifunctional Porphyrin Anchor, Angewandte Chemie, 52, 12069–12072, Hot Paper, Front cover.
  2. Howorka, S., Siwy, Z. (2012) Nanopores as Protein Sensors. Nature Biotechnology, 30, 507-508
  3. Baranova, E., Fronzes, R., Garcia-Pino, A., Papapostolou, D., Péhau-Arnaudet, G., Pardon, E., Steyaert, S., Howorka, S., Remaut, H. (2012) SbsB Structure and Lattice Reconstruction Unveil Ca2+ Triggered S-layer Assembly. Nature, 487, 119-122
  4. Zhu, R., Howorka, S., Pröll, J., Kienberger, F., Preiner, J., Hesse, J., Ebner, A., Pastushenko, V. P., Gruber, H. J., Hinterdorfer, P. (2010) Nanomechanical Recognition Measurements of Individual DNA Molecules Reveals Epigenetic Methylation Patterns. Nature Nanotechnology, 5, 788-791
  5. Borsenberger, V., Howorka, S. (2009) Diene-modified nucleotides for the Diels-Alder-mediated functional tagging of DNA. Nucleic Acids Res. 37, 1477-1485

All Publications

  • 2009 to date: Assoc. Prof. / Reader in Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry, University College London
  • 2005 to 2009: Assist. Prof. / Lecturer in Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry, University College London
  • 2001 - 2004: Group Leader, Biotech incubator Upper Austrian Research GmbH, Linz, Austria
  • 1999 - 2001: Postdoctoral Fellow, Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, Prof. Bayley
  • 1995 – 1999: PhD, University of Vienna, Austria / Research stay at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center
  • 1988 – 1995: Diploma Study of Chemistry/ Biochemistry branch (MSc), University of Vienna, Austria