The professor of chemistry and Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol is especially interested in the chemical synthesis of natural compounds and the question how one could design drugs from plant products. The mutual scientific exchange will be the centre stage. The Chulabhorn Research Institute in Bangkok, founded by the Princess in 1987, is investigating Medicinal-Plants which in Thailand are used against cancer and Malaria. In quest of new vaccines against diseases such as Malaria are the scientists of the department of “Biomolecular Systems” at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids, too. Under the direction of Prof. Peter H. Seeberger they are using new methods for synthesizing sugar chains.
Until recently most of the known naturally occurring sugars were those that supply energy to organisms such as sucrose (household sugar) and starch (in plants). However, the complex sugar molecules, which belong to the carbohydrate, are also involved in many biological processes. They cover all cells in the human body and play a crucial part in molecular identification of cell surfaces, for example, in infections and immune reactions. Complex sugars are omnipresent as cell coatings in nature and can therefore also be used for vaccine development, e.g. against malaria
With automated carbohydrate synthesis, Prof. Seeberger has created the basis for the development of sugar-based drugs and vaccines. Complex molecules from cross-linked carbohydrates can be produced in very few hours. Until now this lasted months or even years with the common technical equipment. “Our automated carbohydrate synthesis currently offers the unrivalled fastest method in order to produce complex carbohydrates” says Seeberger. One of the first results was a complete synthesis of the malaria toxin, with which it is intended to develop a vaccine against malaria, a disease which still claims more than two million victims worldwide each year. The effectiveness of such a vaccine has already been proven in animal trials.
HRH Princess Chulabhorn is the youngest daughter of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and HM Queen Sirikit of Thailand. She studied chemistry and graduated in 1979 from the Faculty of Science at Kasetsart University. She continued to study science at Mahidol University, where she received her doctorate in 1985. She is heavily involved in the promotion of scientific research, and regularly gives awards and prizes. She held the position of a guest lecturer in chemistry at Mahidol University. She also serves as the President of the Chulabhorn Research Institute. She was awarded the UNESCO Einstein Medal for her efforts in promoting scientific collaboration in 1986 and was the first Asian to be invited to join the Royal Society of Chemistry in England as an Honorary Fellow.