3rd Humboldt Professorship for Leipzig University
Leipzig University has secured another Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. The alumnus and chemist Professor Jens Meiler, of Vanderbilt University (US), can now be appointed to the Alma Mater Lipsiensis. The 44-year-old is one of the world’s most distinguished researchers in the field of computer-aided drug discovery. The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship is Germany’s most valuable research prize.
Prof. Dr. Jens Meiler Photo: Steve Greene
“I am delighted that the long-standing research partnership between Leipzig University and Vanderbilt University has now culminated in Jens Meiler’s Humboldt Professorship. This will unlock new horizons for Professor Beck-Sickinger’s already highly successful area of research into molecular mechanisms. It will also considerably strengthen our degree programme in Pharmacy at the Faculty of Medicine,” commented Professor Beate Schücking, Rector of Leipzig University.
The University is also seeking to bolster the research profile area of Molecular and Cellular Communication. To this end, Leipzig aims to attract Professor Jens Meiler – a renowned researcher currently working with innovative modelling methods at Vanderbilt University in the US – to the city, where he would be involved in the Pharmacy programme. Leipzig University has already issued its invitation. With the news that it has secured the highly prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, Leipzig can offer Jens Meiler a particularly attractive working environment. The aim is to attract an outstanding scientist from a top American university to our university. “It would also be the first professorship for pharmaceutical chemistry within a medical faculty in Germany,” explained Professor Christoph Josten, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.
Meiler studied chemistry at Leipzig University, received his doctorate from the University of Frankfurt and then moved to the University of Washington as a postdoctoral fellow. Since 2005 he has been Professor of Chemistry, Pharmacology and Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University. In 2016, Professor Meiler was a visiting scholar at Leipzig University and conducted research on peptide hormone-controlled receptors together with scientists from various disciplines. These receptors are of particular interest to Jens Meiler because they are promising starting points for drugs. The receptors are located on the cell surface, playing an important role in communication between cells and their environment. A detailed understanding of the structure of these receptors helps in the development of new drugs with fewer side effects, for example for patients with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. In the future, drugs could be synthesised in such a way that their active substances influence the cell from the outside instead of having to penetrate it. Meiler is developing algorithms that simulate such receptors in computers and thus enable the development of active substances.
Two Humboldt Professors are currently researching and teaching at Leipzig University: philosopher Professor James Conant and classical philologist and computer scientist Professor Gregory Ralph Crane.