German-Czech Partnership in the Fight against Hepatitis B
The partner group between the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) and the University of Chemistry and Technology (UCT) Prague was inaugurated with a ceremony. Over a period of five years, the Max Planck Society will fund this research group led by Dr. Petra Ménová with a total of 100,000 euros.
From 2015 to 2017, Assistant Professor Dr. Petra Ménová was a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger’s Department of Biomolecular Systems, where she worked on sugar-based vaccines against pneumonia. This resulted in two publications and two patents. After her postdoctoral period, Dr. Ménová obtained a permanent position as a junior research group leader at UCT Prague: „For me as a junior research group leader, joining a Max Planck partner group means being part of something big. I can strengthen my position and expand my group, which will immensely accelerate our projects,“ says Petra Ménová. „The partnership with Petra Ménová, an outstanding young chemist, builds an important bridge for close collaboration in the development of novel sugar-based drugs. This will greatly advance the networking of young students and researchers between Prague and Potsdam,“ says Peter Seeberger.
Petra Ménová’s main research interests are in the field of organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry and sugar chemistry. Thanks to the funding, Dr. Ménová’s research group will henceforth work together with Prof. Seeberger’s Potsdam team on the carbohydrate-binding protein ASGPR. This is a protein receptor that occurs on liver cells. The plan is now to produce lipid nanoparticles with a modified carbohydrate surface that would allow targeted transport of CRISPR/Cas9 to liver cells, which has potential for the treatment of hepatitis B. Most of the synthesis will be done in the UCT lab in Prague. At the same time, the funding will enable active student exchanges and workshops within the partner group. „My students will spend time at the MPICI in Potsdam, where they will find a first-class workplace with appropriate equipment and know-how and benefit from collaboration with the world’s best researchers,“ says Petra Ménová. They will have access to a range of instruments that are not available in their department at UCT Prague, such as the carbohydrate synthesizer or 600- and 700-MHz NMR instruments.
There are more than 70 Max Planck Partner Groups worldwide. They serve to promote young researchers in scientifically emerging countries. A prerequisite for the establishment of a partner group is that excellent postdocs have first worked at a Max Planck Institute and then return to an efficient laboratory in their respective country of origin. There, they continue their research on a topic related to the host Max Planck Institute.