Dr. Maja Köhn - Ernst Schering Prize 2014 and Friedmund Neumann Prize 2014
Photo: Julia Zimmermann
Dr. Maja Köhn from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg is awarded the Friedmund Neumann Prize 2014 for her outstanding work in the field of phosphatase research and for her interdisciplinary approach, combining basic research in chemistry and biology to address questions relevant to medicine.
One of the central research goals of Dr. Köhn, born in 1975, has been to develop chemical tools based on phosphatase interactors to investigate the functioning of phosphatases in basic research and as a possible foundation for drug development. The tools are fabricated out of a synthesis of peptides, phosphoinositides and small molecules. The chemical modulators are all especially developed to be active consistently from within a cell. The molecules will be made available for basic research in biology, such as in commercial peptide synthesis, which is used in the design of peptide based modulators. In particular, the small molecules are also equipped to serve as a foundation for drug development. Another of Dr. Köhn’s central research goals has been the analysis of certain phosphatases to explain their molecular mechanisms, as an understanding of these mechanisms is important for the therapeutic application of the enzymes. As part of this research, Dr. Köhn has applied a wide variety of methods from biochemistry and molecular cell biology. About 50 percent of Dr. Köhn’s group is made up of chemists, and the other 50 percent are biologists. It is thus a terrific example of interdisciplinary basic research in the natural sciences. Dr. Köhn’s long-term goal is the clinical use of phosphatases as therapeutic target proteins to treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
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