An interview with Professor Herbert Waldmann

In a special interview with Herbert Waldmann, Chair of the 2018 Tetrahedron Symposium and Editor of Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, we look back at influential achievements in the field of medicinal chemistry over the past 25 years and ahead to where current research is leading us for the next 25 years.

Q: What is a particularly influential achievement made since the launch of Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 25 years ago?

A:  Among the most important and influential achievements is the sequencing of a multitude of genomes, in particular the human genome, which was enabled by the development of high fidelity chemical methods for deep sequencing. One of the key inventors of deep sequencing is Shankar Balasubramanian, who will be a speaker at the 2018 Tetrahedron Conference.

Q:  What appear to be main themes in current research in the field?

A: Current research at the chemistry-biology interface increasingly addresses the full complexity of biological phenomena and processes and strives to illuminate biology employing chemical techniques as core methodology. This extends well into drug discovery where novel research projects are increasingly launched based on phenotypic and high content screening campaigns with small molecules. This topic will be addressed in plenary lectures at the Tetrahedron Symposium.

Q: In which area of research do you expect to see most progress in the coming 25 years?  

A: One area for which I expect major progress is the modulation of nucleic acid function by means of chemical methods, e.g. modulation of small RNAs by small molecules. The community has strongly focussed on the protein world in the past decades. Foreseeably this will dominate the majority of research in the upcoming years, but I expect that the nucleic acid world will gain in importance. One of the pioneers of this field, Peter Devan, will speak in Riva, and one of the young leaders in this field, Matt Disney, will present to the audience his latest results.

Q:  Why should someone attend the Tetrahedron Symposium this year?

A: The 2018 Symposium will feature an unprecedented flight of global leaders in chemical biology and bioorganic chemistry research. This is a unique opportunity to see the best in one concentrated meeting. Not a single minute will be invested in vain.

Q:  What advice would you give young researchers in this field of science?

A: In research at the chemistry-biology interface one needs to be particularly adventurous and broadly interested across the disciplines. My key advice to young researchers starting their scientific careers is to take a risk, address major problems, even if they are not at the heart of their core expertise, and understand that one good idea is worth more than a lot of work (which of course also is needed). Rise to the challenge, it will be rewarded.

Professor Herbert Waldmann is head of the Department of Chemical Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology and, concurrently Full Professor of Biochemistry at the Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany. Biography