25 October 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

PHOENIX Pharmaceutical Science Award for Rolf Müller

The natural substance researcher Prof Rolf Müller has been awarded the 2016 PHOENIX Pharmaceutical Science Award worth 10,000 euro. Müller heads the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) and coordinates the “Natural Compound Library” at the DZIF. The PHOENIX group is honouring him for the discovery of and research on a novel agent for tuberculosis pathogens.


Prof Rolf Müller, Director of Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) © HIPS, Saarbrücken

The tuberculosis pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis is becoming increasingly resistant to common antibiotics. Meanwhile, around 480,000 people suffer from infections with the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis pathogens (MDR-TB). Such bacteria can now only rarely be fought with the drugs commonly used in hospitals. “Novel TB agents will therefore be urgently needed in future,” explains Rolf Müller.

Recently, Müller and his research colleagues from the HZI, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and Sanofi described such an agent. The molecule, called cyclohexylgriselimycin, is a new variant of the griselimycin class— a natural substance class that has been known for longer. They are produced by a type of bacteria called streptomyces, and are effective against TB pathogens. Cyclohexylgriselimycin, which was optimised in the laboratory, shows particularly interesting features contributing to this. It inhibits the growth of TB pathogens by blocking the biomolecule DnaN which the pathogen needs for replicating its hereditary material. “The novel mechanism of action ensures that even resistant bacteria can be combatted with cyclohexylgriselimycin,” says Müller. In contrast, the pathogens have a difficult time developing resistance to the new agent itself. Clinical trials will show whether cyclohexylgriselimycin or one of its variants can be used as a clinical drug.

The award winner

Since 2003, Rolf Müller has been Professor of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the Saarland University. He researches biologically active agents derived from microorganisms and from myxobacteria in particular. The natural substances derived from them are a valuable source of lead substances for developing therapeutics in the pharmaceutical industry. Since 2009, Rolf Müller has been Managing Director of the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), where he heads the “Microbial Natural Products” Department and is also co-founder of PharmBioTec GmbH in Saarbrücken. Müller coordinates the “Natural Compound Library” at the DZIF where he is also involved in different projects.

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