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    Distinguished researchers in STEM fields.

On the trail of the corona blocker

Science Award of the Hector Foundation goes to Prof. Dr. Patrick Cramer


WEINHEIM. Prof. Dr. Patrick Cramer is this year''s winner of the Hector Foundation's Science Award, which comes with a purse of 150,000 euros. With this award, the jury honors the outstanding achievements of the 51-year-old, who works at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen as head of the Department of Molecular Biology. With his team, Patrick Cramer conducts research in the field of gene transcription. With the help of this copying process, living cells create copies of their genes, which serve as building instructions for the production of proteins. Cramer's research focuses on the molecular machines, called RNA polymerases, that control this copying process.

Patrick Cramer has visualized the structures of many of these cellular copying machines at atomic resolution for the first time. The researcher from Stuttgart was able to elucidate how the RNA polymerases translate genetic information. With his research, he also hopes to uncover how the cellular copying machines are controlled. Although the genetic information is identical in all cells, it is retrieved as needed. It is only through this precise control of transcription that a complex organism with specialists as diverse as skin, nerve or liver cells can develop. "It is very exciting that we are now beginning to understand the principles that underlie gene regulation," the molecular biologist reports.

Another focus of his team is the study of corona polymerase. Shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe, Cramer's group filmed how the coronavirus duplicates its genetic material. Cramer's team also succeeded in visualizing how the medication remdesivir interferes with this copying process. Remdesivir was the first substance to be approved in Europe and the United States for the treatment of Covid-19 infections. Accordingly, high hopes rested on it. Cramer's team found that while remdesivir interferes with the copying of the viral genome, it does not completely block this process. "That explains, at least in part, why the drug is not as effective as had been expected," says the Max Planck director, adding, "One of our next goals will be to develop molecules that can better inhibit corona polymerase."

Normally, the Hector Science Award ceremony is held at the Hotel Europäischer Hof in Heidelberg. But because of the pandemic, the foundation's board of directors and the presidium of the Hector Fellow Academy met in a virtual setting this time to award the new prize winner. In his laudatory speech, Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein, Director of the Children's Hospital Dr. von Haunersches Kinderspital Munich and Hector Fellow since 2014, explained that the jury had voted unanimously for Patrick Cramer as the award winner for good reason: "His research work makes a formative contribution to the life sciences and to interdisciplinary collaboration." Founder Dr. h.c. Hans-Werner Hector welcomed Patrick Cramer as the 25th scientist in the circle of Hector Fellows.

Press release of the Hector Foundation II