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Review: Leibniz Conference on Bioactive Compounds 2018 at the IPB

Awardees of the Leibniz Research Award

This year's Leibniz Research Award went to Prof. Keasling from the University of California, Berkeley, USA. Photo: Paul Jänicke, IPB.

Scientists from the member institutes of the Leibniz Research Alliance "Bioactive Compounds and Biotechnology" came together for their annual meeting from April 23 to 24, 2018 in Halle. This year, the IPB hosted and welcomed 88 participants in the lecture hall of the neighboring Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO). The conference served - as usual - as a platform for exchange and discussion as well as for the presentation of scientific results in the form of lectures and poster presentations. After a welcome address by Prof. Steffen Abel, Managing Director of the IPB, and Prof. Ludger Wessjohann, Spokesperson of the Alliance, keynote speaker Prof. Timo Niedermeyer (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg) opened the lectures series with a presentation on "Cyanobacteria in Natural Product Research". In the afternoon, the Leibniz Research Award and Leibniz Drug of the Year prizes were awarded.

This year's winner of the Research Award is Prof. Jay D. Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, USA for his pioneering work in synthetic biology. Prof. Keasling is Professor of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering; he is also Associate Laboratory Director of Life Sciences at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Chief Executive Officer of the Joint BioEnergy Institute. His research focuses on the development of tools for engineering metabolism inside cells. In this way, metabolic pathways can be changed in such a way that they generate chemical compounds of interest and produce active ingredients in efficient microbial production organisms under industrial conditions. These tools have already been used by Keasling and his team to manufacture the antimalarial drug Artemisinin, a variety of basic and specialty chemicals, and biofuels. In the main lecture of the conference, he presented three current projects of his research team.

The Leibniz Drug of the Year award was established by the research alliance to recognize important research activities in the field of bioactive drugs within the Leibniz Association. This year, the prize was awarded to Prof. Ludger Wessjohann, Dr. Silke Pienkny, and Dr. Andrea Porzel from the IPB, as well as Prof. Wolfgang Meyerhof, Dr. Juliane Bojahr, and Dr. Anne Brockhoff from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) for the discovery of Balansin A and B and their characterization. Balansins were discovered together with scientists from the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and Symrise AG, the largest German flavor manufacturer. Balansin A and B are new sweeteners derived from the Vietnamese plant Mycetia balansae. They have a structure and taste profile that is different from stevia or licorice terpene glycosides. These compounds from Mycetia balansae can be used as new sweeteners.

On the second day of the conference, presentations on the so-called Seed Money Projects were part of the program. The collaborative start-up projects will promote scientific collaboration between two or more members to develop larger projects. Especially for junior research groups, this facilitates entering into interdisciplinary projects.

The next Leibniz Conference on Bioactive Compounds will take place on April 1-2, 2019 in Dresden. More information can be found on the website of the research alliance.

Dr. Anna Rusznyak
Scientific Coordinator Leibniz Research Alliance
Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Weinberg 3
06120 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: +49 (0) 345 5582 1370
Email: Anna.Rusznyak@ipb-halle.de

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