Rubrik: Campus Life
Körber Prize 2007 to Peter Seeberger
Outstanding sugar designer
Published: 02.05.2007 06:00
Modified: 07.05.2007 17:19
(cm) The Körber Foundation, Hamburg, has awarded this year’s 750,000 Euro Körber Prize to Peter Seeberger, ETH Zurich Professor of Organic Chemistry (1) (2) . Prof. Seeberger is honoured for his many years of detailed work that led to an automatic carbohydrate synthesis machine, as the Foundation announced on Wednesday 25 April 2007. For example the new method helps in the manufacture of synthetic sugar-based vaccines. The Körber Prize honours European scientists for a concrete, forward-looking research project. The award is decided by a Board of Trustees with an international membership and chaired by Prof. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society.
Using the “automatic oligosaccharide synthesiser” that he had developed, Peter Seeberger and his colleagues succeeded in the artificial preparation of known glycans, i.e. polysaccharides, from disease pathogens and developed them into candidate vaccines against diseases such as leishmaniasis (kala-azar), malaria, AIDS, anthrax and tuberculosis. They have already proved effective in animal experiments; the malaria vaccine will be tested on humans for the first time next year.
Researchers are also interested in what are known as sugar microarrays or glycochips. Hundreds of small “piles” of different polysaccharides can be applied to these for test purposes. This enables a very rapid and systematic test of whether and how particular test molecules bind to these different sugar chains. In the past researchers had to extract these sugars individually from natural sources, which often took many months. Using Seeberger’s synthesizer they can now be prepared artificially as “designer sugars” – some in a few hours –, which speeds up the studies greatly.
Peter Seeberger graduated in Chemistry at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and gained his doctorate degree in Biochemistry in 1995 as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. He became Assistant Professor in 1998 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA, where he was appointed Firmenich Associate Professor of Chemistry in 2002. Seeberger has received numerous prizes and awards for his studies in chemistry and biochemistry. He moved to his current position at ETH Zurich in 2003.
The Körber Prize for European Science 2007 will be presented in Hamburg Town Hall’s Grosse Festsaal on 7 September 2007.