You have set yourself the goal of achieving "selectivity" in biochemical processes with your LOEWE cluster entitled "Innovative Synthesis Chemistry for the Selective Modulation of Biological Processes (SynChemBio)". What is this all about? Our field is biochemistry and medicinal chemistry, so we are dealing with highly complex processes where a large number of proteins, enzymes and other cell components interact. We want to help precisely control these processes with new chemical strategies. Our goal is to design active medical ingredients in such a way that they only have their intended effect, i.e. without producing any side-effects. Research would also benefit if, for example, it was possible to deactivate a single enzyme with an inhibitor: we could then deduce the exact function that this one enzyme fulfils. However, a great deal of pure research is still necessary here and the LOEWE cluster opens up completely new avenues for this: our team includes colleagues from inorganic and organometallic chemistry, for example. As a result, we can tackle our problem from a much broader perspective than has been possible in the past.
After taking your degree in Bonn and spending time in Switzerland and the USA, you have been at the Philipps University in Marburg since 2007. You were also appointed as a professor at the University of Xiamen in China in 2011. How did this come about? When I arrived in Marburg, I had a number of positions to fill and I was unable to do so just with graduates from here. So, I looked around internationally, and very deliberately in China. That is how the cooperation arrangement with Dr Lei Gong started; he worked with me in a post-PhD position here in Marburg for three years. We continued to cooperate after he returned to Xiamen University as an Associate Professor and have been jointly supervising a research group since that time.
What does this double professorship mean for your everyday life and your research? I spend about two months a year at the university in Xiamen. During the rest of the time, we communicate by e-mail and Skype. I am happy to accept this additional burden, because our Chinese staff are very enthusiastic about this project and my groups in Marburg and in Xiamen now benefit from each other a great deal.
Your research topic could certainly be interesting for industry as well. Why do you conduct research at the university? I was originally drawn to teaching maths and physics. But then chemistry grabbed my attention and from that moment on, I wanted to become a university lecturer. It provides me with the ideal combination of my passion for research and the desire to impart knowledge. That is why I am very pleased that the LOEWE support is once again enhancing our opportunities to promote young academic talent.
- Spokesman of the LOEWE cluster SynChemBio
- Professor at the Philipps-University of Marburg and at the University of Xiamen in China