Dr. Janna Nawroth

Contact Details

Business card at TUMonline

Academic Career and Research Areas

Janna Nawroth received her PhD in Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where she studied the structure-function relationships of jellyfish propulsion and used these insights to engineer muscle powered pumps for biomedical research. For her postdoctoral training, she was awarded the Technology Development Fellowship at the Harvard University Wyss Institute. She developed Organ-Chips and advanced imaging technologies with Don Ingber and Kit Parker to study the mechanics of human heart, lung and liver tissues, before continuing this work at the Organ-Chip company Emulate and later at the University of Southern California. In 2020, Dr. Nawroth received an ERC Starting grant for studying the role of mechanical forces and defective mucociliary clearance in chronic airway disease.  In 2021, Dr. Nawroth joined the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus.

Dr. Janna Nawroth's primary research focus is the mechanobiology of the airway epithelium. The key hypothesis is that chronic airway diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are exacerbated and perpetuated by a change in the mechanical properties of the airway tissue, especially the impaired mucociliary clearance of irritants and pathogens. To investigate this hypothesis, the Nawroth lab studies how normal and abnormal mechanical forces shape epithelial differentiation and genetic/molecular responses, and how this affects the properties of extracellular matrix, tissue architecture, and mucociliary clearance.  The Nawroth lab combines 3 different approaches to study these mechanisms at the cell and tissue level:
1. Development of Airway-on-a-Chip models and tissue engineering techniques that allow to build custom-designed airway epithelia, study the role of other cell types, and apply well-controlled mechanical stimuli.
2. Development of imaging and analysis tools to record structure, kinematics, and transport phenomena of living tissues at multiple spatial and temporal scales.
3. Leverage of other model systems, including physics-based in silico models and select invertebrate animal models, to understand fundamental structure-function relationships between ciliated tissue designs and resulting mechanical properties and fluid transport functions, including mucociliary clearance.


- European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC-STG) (2020)
- Leibniz Programme for Women Professors  (declined) (2020)
- Wyss Technology Development Fellowship at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University (2014)
- Demetriades–Tsafka–Kokkalis price for best Ph.D. thesis in Nanotechnology at Caltech (2013)
- Everhart Lecture Award at Caltech (2012)

Nawroth JC, Petropolis DB, Manatakis DV, Maulana TI, Burchett G, Schlünder K, Witt A, Shukla A, Kodella K, Ronxhi J, Kulkarni G, Hamilton G, Seki E, Lu S, Karalis KC. “Modelierung von alkohol-indizierter Lebererkrankung in einem menschlichen Leber-Chip”. Cell Rep. 2021 Jul, 20;36(3):109393


Nawroth JC, Lucchesi C, Cheng D, Shukla A, gyuen J, Shroff T, Varone A, Karalis K, Lee HH, Alves S, Hamilton GA, Salmon M, Villenave R. “Ein Mikrokonstruierter Atemwegs-Lungenchip Modelliert Schlüsselmerkmale von Vireninduzierten Asthma-Attacken.”, Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2020 Nov;63(5):591-600. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2020-0010MA. PMID: 32706623.


Nawroth JC, van der Does AM, Firth AL, Kanso E. “Multidimensionale-Mechanik von mukoziliärer Clearance in der Lunge”. Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B 2020 Feb 17;375(1792):20190160.


Nawroth JC, Barrile R, Conegliano D, van Riet S, Hiemstra PC, Villenave R. “Stammzellen-basierte Lungen-Chips: das bester beider Welten?”. Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev., 2019 Feb 1;140:12-32.


Nawroth JC, Guo H, Dabiri JO, Ruby E, Kanso E, McFall-Ngai M, “Motile Zilien schaffen fließmechanische Mikrohabitate für die active Rekrutierung des Mikrobioms”. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, August 2017; 114(36):9510–9516.