9. June 2022 | Press releases:

Sarah Reisman and Christian Hertweck receive Inhoffen Medals HZI and Technische Universität Braunschweig honour researchers in natural compound chemistry

Nature is an important source of active substances used in medicine. The goal of natural compound chemistry is to isolate these active substances, elucidate their structure, synthesise them in the laboratory and produce new variants. The Friends of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) have awarded the Inhoffen Medal to two scientists for their research achievements in this field: Prof. Sarah Reisman, California Institute of Technology, and Prof. Christian Hertweck, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (HKI) Jena, will receive the award for the years 2022 and 2020 respectively. The award ceremony took place on 9 June 2022 at the Haus der Wissenschaft.

The Inhoffen Medal 2022 was awarded to Prof. Sarah Reisman. “For her work, Sarah Reisman always chooses structurally highly complex target molecules of great biological relevance, such as various antibiotics. She is a master at reducing these compounds to much simpler building blocks. Occasionally, the chemical reactions required to assemble the building blocks are not even known; in such cases, she develops the necessary methods for this in parallel in her laboratory,” laudator Prof. Alois Fürstner, Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim/Ruhr and winner of the 2014 Inhoffen Medal, says about the award-winning researcher.

Sarah Reisman studied chemistry at Connecticut College, USA, and received her PhD from Yale University in 2006. She then conducted research at Harvard University as a fellow of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since 2008, she has led a research group at the California Institute of Technology and works on innovative syntheses of molecules with medical applications.

In addition, Prof. Christian Hertweck was presented with the Inhoffen Medal 2020. “Prof. Christian Hertweck is an outstanding scientist who is one of the most productive natural compound researchers,” said Prof. Wilhelm Boland, director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena and 2005 recipient of the Inhoffen Medal, about the laureate and highlighted his achievements in researching biosynthetic programmes in bacteria and fungi as well as microbial communication in various ecosystems. The ceremony for Hertweck had been postponed several times due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Christian Hertweck studied chemistry at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, where he also received his doctorate in 1999. From 2001, he established a junior research group at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (HKI) Jena. Since 2006, he has headed the “Biomolecular Chemistry” department there and has also been deputy director of the HKI Jena since 2008.

The Inhoffen Prize, awarded by the Friends of the HZI and endowed with 8000 euros, is considered the most prestigious German award in the field of natural compound chemistry. It is awarded as part of the Inhoffen Lecture, a joint festive event of the HZI, Technische Universität Braunschweig and the Friends of the HZI.

About the Inhoffen Medal

In memory of the chemist Hans Herloff Inhoffen, who died in 1992, Technische Universität Braunschweig and the HZI (at that time still: German Research Centre for Biotechnology, GBF for short) have been organising the annual Inhoffen Lecture since 1994, at which the prize of the same name is awarded. Inhoffen taught at Technische Universität Braunschweig from 1946 to 1974 and served as rector there from 1948 to 1950. He also founded the “Institute of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics” (IMB) in 1965, the forerunner institute of the GBF and thus of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research.