RWTH Professor Dörte Rother to Receive DECHEMA Award


Scientist develops a catalytic tool box for active ingredient synthesis, thereby making high product concentrations possible. 


The 2018 DECHEMA Prize has been awarded to Professor Dr. Dörte Rother, actively engaged in research at RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich. The award, which includes 20,000 euros in prize money, will be presented to her on May 23, 2019 in Frankfurt. According to the press release issued by the Association for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnolgy, DECHEMA for short, the scholar is being honored for her ground-breaking achievements in the development of efficient synthetic enzyme cascades for the production of high-quality chiral substances.

Chiral substances are chemical substances whose molecules are mirror images of one another. This causes them to be very similar chemically, but they can have very different effects, particularly in terms of physiology, which is why their manufacture is seen as one of the key challenges for researchers in the field of chemistry and biotechnology. Many of these substances are used in pharmaceutical applications, making the synthesis also highly relevant for commercial reasons.

Antibiotic and Oncological Applications

In her work, Dörte Rother combines various biocatalytic and chemical reaction steps in order to create intermediate pharmaceutical products or agents out of readily available starting materials by means of synthetic enzyme cascades. For this purpose, she has developed a "tool box” with her team, which encompasses enzymes, but also chemical catalysts with varying substrate preferences and complementary stereo- and regioselectivities. This allows for quick and flexible combinations in the production of chiral target products that are desirable for commercial purposes. Product platforms of hydroxy ketones, amines, amino alcohols and tetrahydroisoquinolines – a substance class with great potential for antibiotic and oncological applications – have been developed and, in some cases, already implemented on an industrial scale. In addition to enzymatic reactions in aqueous environments, also unconventional media, such as micro-aqueous systems with green solvents or pure substrate systems are used. The aim is to achieve consistently high product concentrations with high selectivity.

RWTH Graduate and Grant Award Winner

In order to realize the goal of creating industrially feasible processes, the research activities cover both the rational enzyme design as well as reaction optimization and process design, including product processing. In addition to economic efficiency, ecological aspects are also evaluated and optimized. At the center of the research are multi-step hybrid processes based on renewable raw materials.

Dörte Rother studied biotechnology at RWTH Aachen University and completed her doctorate at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in 2008. In 2015, she was appointed Junior Professor at Aachen’s University of Excellence and, at the same time, took on leadership of a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Since 2018, she has held a professorship at the University while also leading the "synthetic enzyme cascades" research group in Jülich. Previous distinctions include the Jülich Excellence Award in 2010, the Bioeconomy Science Center Super Vision Award in 2014, and the receipt of an ERC Starting Grant on the topic of "light-controlled enzyme cascades" in the year 2017.

Source: Press and Communications