On 12 January 2012, Karl Gademann will receive the National Latsis Prize 2011 at the Rathaus in Berne. A professor at the chemistry department of the University of Basel, he wins the award for his work on the isolation and synthesis of natural materials. The National Latsis Prize is worth 100,000 Swiss francs. It is awarded each year by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) on behalf of the Latsis Foundation to researchers up to the age of 40. The National Latsis Prize is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in Switzerland.
Educated as an organic chemist, Karl Gademann has a natural flair for interdisciplinarity. He is able to travel between chemistry, materials science, pharmacology and biology with an ease that is seldom seen. Taking his inspiration from nature, he is studying bioactive molecules in order to understand them fully: what is their structure, and how do they behave? What ecological role do they play, and why do organisms produce them?
Blue-green algae, for instance, protect themselves against the voracious appetite of insects by producing substances that change the insects' behaviour. Karl Gademann sees a link here to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. And blue-green algae do indeed contain a substance that effects an enzyme associated with the development of Alzheimer's. Links like these give rise to pioneering medical hypotheses, but the road to a marketable drug is still long. Karl Gademann is quick to point out that he is first and foremost a basic researcher, i.e. a generator of new ideas.
After doing a doctorate at the ETH in Zurich in 2000, Karl Gademann worked as a postdoc for the firm Givaudan and later at Harvard University. After returning to the ETH in Zurich, he completed his habilitation there in 2006. His work earned him – at the age of 34 – an assistant professorship at the EPFL in Lausanne, where he founded the chemical synthesis laboratory. Since 2010, he has held the post of associate professor of organic chemistry at the chemistry department of the University of Basel.
The prize will be awarded on 12 January 2012 at the Rathaus in Berne (Rathausplatz 2). The speakers at the ceremony will include: professor Dieter Imboden, president of the National Research Council of the SNSF, Dr Bernhard Pulver, president of the Bernese Cantonal Government, professor Justin Thorens, president of the Latsis Foundation, professor Thomas Stocker, former recipient of the National Latsis Prize, professor Hans-Ulrich Blaser, president of the Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences division of the National Research Council of the SNSF, and the award winner, professor Karl Gademann.Representatives of the media are invited to the award ceremony.
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