Francesco Simone Ruggeri is currently Associate Professor at Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands. He was first appointed as Assistant Professor in December 2020. Before his appointment Wageningen, he has completed his independent Junior Research Fellowship at the Department of Chemistry at University of Cambridge and at the Darwin College (UK). He holds a PhD in Biophysics obtained in 2015 at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
Dr. Ruggeri has led the development and application of single-molecule scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopic methods for the characterisation of biomolecular processes, polymers and (bio-)materials at the nanoscale.
Dr. Ruggeri expertise has led already to the publication of more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles, out of which more than half as first or corresponding author. More than 25 of these works are in Nature, PNAS, Angewandte, or Science series journals.
In these works, Dr. Ruggeri has developed and applied of single molecule AFM-based approaches in combination with microfluidics, to study the chemical and structural properties of biological systems that are challenging to access using conventional bulk biophysical methods. Furthermore, he has first demonstrated the application nanomechanical mapping and infrared nanospectroscopy (AFM-IR) to unravel the properties of biological samples at the nanoscale in air and liquid environments. As major advance in the field of microscopy and spectroscopy, he has recently demonstrated that AFM-IR is capable to acquire the chemical fingerprint and secondary structure of biological samples in native liquid environments and at the single-molecule scale.
Dr Ruggeri has further applied nano-imaging and chemical spectroscopy to unravel the molecular structural changes and self-assembly of functional and pathogenic proteins and peptides in-vitro, as well as in-vivo in human biopsies. He has studied protein and peptides such as Ab42, a-synuclein, FUS and huntingtin. These are involved in the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Frontotemporal neurodegeneration, and Huntington’s. He showed that liquid-liquid phase separation occurs before than pathological aggregation and that non-pathological condensates exploit functional intermolecular hydrogen bonding. He identified the elementary unit in the hierarchical assembly of amyloids, which are present in-vivo with characteristic inflammatory response and unveiled fibrillar polymorphism. He proved the molecular interaction of amyloids with inhibitor drugs for first time at the single-molecule level. He demonstrated that stiffness of protein aggregates and their biocompatibility as functional materials depends on their content of intermolecular hydrogen bonding.
The objective of Dr. Ruggeri´s present and future research is the development and application of novel Physical methods at the interface with Chemistry and Biology. He will continuously push the boundaries of the nanoscale microscopy and spectroscopy to shed light on the molecular processes underlying life, cell function and disease, as well as study advanced functional surfaces and biomaterials.