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Heisenberg professorship goes to Jennifer Andexer

The Freiburg biochemist studies the mechanisms of enzymes

Freiburg, Jul 01, 2020

Heisenberg professorship goes to Jennifer Andexer

Jennifer Andexer. Photo: Thomas Kunz

The Senate at the University of Freiburg has decided to establish a Heisenberg professorship, which had previously been approved by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for Dr. Jennifer Andexer. The DFG funding will be available for up to five years and, in the case of a positive interim evaluation, will be combined with a transfer to a permanent professorship at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Freiburg. Andexer is investigating how enzymes accelerate biochemical reactions.

In order to function as catalysts in biochemical reactions, some enzymes require a cofactor. Andexer focuses her research on their interaction. For example, the enzyme can transfer a chemical group from the cofactor molecule to a target molecule. What remains of the cofactor can inhibit the enzyme: In some cases, the "discharged" cofactor molecule binds almost as well to the active site of the enzyme as the cofactor itself, thus impairing its function. In addition, many enzymes constantly need new cofactor molecules to keep the reaction going. The Freiburg scientist and her team are working on maintaining this process in vitro and gradually optimizing it. For example, they succeed in doing this by incorporating new reactions in order to remove interfering material from the reaction chain or by using additional enzymes to first build up and then transfer molecules that are needed. The consideration of the molecular mechanism of the enzymes involved always plays an important role, as this is the basis for their selectivity - i.e. the selection of the correct molecules for reactions by the enzymes, and the choice of a particular reaction site.

In the coming years, Andexer plans to further advance this research and extend it to other enzyme families and modified cofactors. The additional combination with other enzymes allows the production of a large number of selectively modified building blocks. Knowledge of how the enzymes function can help here to produce enzyme variants with modified selectivity. Another focus will be the use of different unicellular organisms for the in vivo production of enzymes, cofactors and their reaction products.

Jennifer Andexer studied biology at the Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf and received her doctorate at the Institute of Molecular Enzyme Technology at the University of Düsseldorf at the Research Centre Juelich. In the course of her research on the mode of action of enzymes, she increasingly entered the field of chemistry. From 2008 onwards, she expanded her focus as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge in England, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service. Since 2011, she has been Junior Professor of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Freiburg. She is currently interim professor of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry. Among other awards, she received the Starting Grant of the European Research Council (ERC) in 2016 and the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize from the DFG in 2018.


Article in the research magazine uni’wissen about Jennifer Andexer


Dr. Jennifer Andexer
Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-67398


Press photo for download
Photo: Thomas Kunz