Inhoffen Medal 2019 awarded to chemist Phil Baran

Medically relevant compounds can often be found in nature. To make them suitable for drugs, they need to be isolated from their natural sources. If sufficient quantities of the agent cannot be isolated in that manner, chemical synthesis comes into play. Without chemical synthesis, many agents were not available for the industrial production of drugs. Phil S. Baran of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, USA, aims to develop the “perfect synthesis”. His methods and reagents are applied in fundamental chemical research and in the production of pharmaceuticals. They are commercially marketed with much success. In honour of his outstanding achievements, he is being awarded the Inhoffen Medal by the “Friends of the HZI”, the sponsors‘ association of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI).

“HZI and Technische Universität Braunschweig celebrate the award of the Inhoffen Medal which is given in recognition of world-leading research in the field of total synthesis of natural agents. In just a short period of time, Phil Baran has revolutionised the synthesis of organic natural compounds and set innovative impulses in synthetic methodology as well,“ says Prof Peter H. Seeberger, laudator and director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, in honour of Baran’s achievements.

„Phil Baran is one of the outstanding natural substance chemists of our time. He managed to significantly increase the synthesis efficacy for highly complex natural substances by establishing a variety of new methods that minimise preparatory and ancillary steps of the synthesis,“ says Prof Mark Brönstrup, head of the Chemical Biology department at the HZI.
Phil Baran majored in chemistry at the New York University and received his doctorate in 2001 at the Scripps Research Institute (SRI). He then worked as a scientist at Harvard University and returned to the SRI in 2003 to set up his own research group. He has received numerous awards including a Mukaiyama Award, the Emmanuel Merck Lecture and a MacArthur Fellowship.

The Inhoffen award of the HZI sponsors‘ association, worth €8000, is the most prestigious German award in the field of natural substance chemistry. The award will be presented in the scope of the Inhoffen Lecture, a joint event of HZI, Technische Universität Braunschweig and the Friends of the HZI. The ceremony is scheduled to be held on Friday, April 12, at 15 pm in the Forum of the HZI.

In the scope of the Inhoffen Lecture, the HZI sponsors‘ association also honours outstanding doctoral theses in life sciences. This year’s sponsor awards, worth €1000 each, go to Dr Katharina Borst of the TWINCORE – Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research and to Dr Michael Kany of the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland, a branch location of the HZI. Borst researched the behaviour of myeloid liver cells during infection with viral hepatitis, whereas Kany investigated patho-blocker targets in pathogenic bacteria.

To commemorate the chemist Hans Herloff Inhoffen (deceased in 1992), the Technische Universität Braunschweig and the HZI (formerly: German Research Centre for Biotechnology or GBF) annually organise the Inhoffen Lecture (since 1994) at which the award bearing his name is presented. Inhoffen taught at the Technische Universität Braunschweig from 1946 to 1974 and served as its rector from 1948 to 1950. Moreover, in 1965, he founded the Institute for Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics (IMB), the predecessor institution of the GBF and, by extension, of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research.

Photo and interview opportunity:
Prior to the event, media representatives will have the opportunity to meet with and take pictures of the laureates at 14:30 pm. For more information, please phone 0531 6181-1400, Susanne Thiele, head of Press and Communication at the HZI.

The press release is also available on our website:

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research:
Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany, are engaged in the study of different mechanisms of infection and of the body’s response to infection. Helping to improve the scientific community’s understanding of a given bacterium’s or virus’ pathogenicity is key to developing effective new treatments and vaccines. The HZI is a member of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).

Susanne Thiele, Press Officer

Dr Andreas Fischer, Editor

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research
Press and Communications
Inhoffenstr. 7
D-38124 Braunschweig

Phone: +49 531 6181-1404

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