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Producing Proteins with New Methods

German Research Foundation Announces That a Coordinated Priority Programme at Freie Universität Berlin Will Be Funded with Almost Eleven Million Euros

№ 106/2011 from Apr 18, 2011

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced the funding of a new Priority Programme at Freie Universität Berlin in the amount of nearly 11 million euros. This new national research network aims to design innovative synthetic methods for the production of proteins with special functions of particular importance for biology and pharmaceutics. Techniques from synthetic organic chemistry and molecular biology will be combined to obtain the proteins required for specific functional investigations. The coordinator of the “Chemoselective Reactions for the Synthesis and Application of Functional Proteins” project is Prof. Dr. Christian Hackenberger, a professor of chemistry at Freie Universität. The goal is to establish a national interdisciplinary network of researchers from chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics.

As part of a DFG Priority Programme, up to 30 research groups nationwide can receive funding, which will be determined in a separate evaluation process. The new research network is aimed at scientists from chemistry, biotechnology, molecular biology, biophysics, and biology. “The new Priority Programme will focus on the investigation of vital processes in the cell that can be controlled by the modification of proteins,” according to Christian Hackenberger. These biological processes may be responsible, for example, for cell division. At worst their malfunction can lead to disease or cell death. There is therefore a pressing interest to prepare modified proteins in the laboratory to investigate their exact mode of action. Another focus of the proposed work is to add unnatural building blocks to proteins and thus assign them a particular function. This process could, for example, make proteins visible in the cells or simplify the purification of proteins. Another application of the unnatural proteins, which is very interesting for the pharmaceutical industry, is linking the proteins with water-soluble polymers, in order to make them stable and therefore therapeutically useful.

“The Priority Programme is very timely because in recent years, chemical and biological groups have already created the first pioneering techniques for the production of modified proteins. The newly approved Priority Programme will enable us to support these groups in Germany over a period lasting up to six years and to make innovative work visible that is of interest to the pharmaceutical industry,” emphasized Hackenberger.

The coordinator of the new Priority Programme, Christian Hackenberger, studied at the universities of Freiburg (Germany) and Wisconsin–Madison (U.S.A.), where he received his Master of Science degree in 1999. After completing his doctorate at RWTH Aachen, Germany, in 2003 and a postdoc period at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (U.S.A.), Hackenberger joined the faculty at Freie Universität Berlin in 2005. He heads a DFG-funded Emmy Noether group, and he completed his habilitation at the beginning of 2011. His group is also the first research group funded by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation in its “Plus 3” perspectives program for independent researchers. Since 2008 Hackenberger has been spokesperson and coordinator of the integrated Research Training Group (GKM) “Multivalence in Chemistry and Biology” in the Collaborative Research Center 765 at Freie Universität. Recently Hackenberger has been the recipient of several research awards including in 2011 the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the DFG, a distinction for young researchers. In total, Hackenberger has raised more than three million euros in external funding since 2005.

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Dr. Christian Hackenberger, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-52451, Email: