University of Basel, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Molecular Pharmacy

The research of our group is focused on peptide-, protein- and carbohydrate-based therapeutics. Nature provides a fascinating and powerful system of basic building blocks (e.g., amino acids, monosaccharides) to generate a large and diverse variety of physiologically active agents ranging from hormones and cytokines to antimicrobial peptides and glycoproteins. Whereas the direct use of peptides, proteins and carbohydrates for therapeutic purposes has long been considered challenging, recent development in the design, production, formulation and administration of such compounds led to a resurgence of biopharmaceuticals. Starting from natural templates or screening efforts, and utilizing tools from biotechnology, protein engineering, computational and medicinal chemistry and structural biology, our group designs and refines peptide-, protein- and carbohydrate-based molecules with potential therapeutic value. The targeting of therapeutic entities to the ideal cellular or molecular target defines another important aspect of our research activities.

Our expertise includes:
– Computer-aided drug design of novel biologically active compounds
– Structure-based design of enzyme inhibitors, receptor agonists and antagonists
– Hit-to-lead optimisation of affinity and selectivity
– Optimisation of physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties
in vitro assays on various enzymes, receptors and cell-based systems
in vivo assays in relevant mouse models

Prof. Dr. Daniel Ricklin is Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacy in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, Switzerland. He studied pharmaceutical sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, and earned a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Basel. He joined the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA) and the field of complement biology as a postdoctoral scientist in 2006 and turned to therapeutic aspects as an Assistant and Associate Professor at the same institution. In 2016, he was appointed to his current position at the University of Basel, where he now heads the Molecular Pharmacy group. His research efforts are focused on the development of therapeutic concepts for immune modulation and controlling adverse host defence pathway activation in clinical conditions, starting from natural leads (i.e., peptides, proteins and carbohydrates) and applying concepts ranging from biotechnology to medicinal chemistry.

Prof. Dr. Beat Ernst

Prof. Dr. Beat Ernst studied chemistry at the ETH Zürich, where he also completed his Ph.D. supervised by Proff. Oskar Jeger and Camille Ganter. He spent the following two years as a post-doctoral associate at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, in the research group of Prof. Robert E. Ireland. In 1991, he joined Ciba-Geigy’s Central Research Laboratories in Basel, where he first worked on small ring compounds and later on carbohydrates and the design of glycomimetics thereof as potential drug candidates. In 1997, he moved to Transplantation Research within Novartis Pharma AG, which had been formed through the merger between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. From 1998 to 2016, he has been professor of Molecular Pharmacy at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Basel.

Beat Ernst’s research interests are at the interface between carbohydrate chemistry and glycobiology, with a particular focus on the synthesis of glycomimetics and their pharmacological profiling. His research on one hand aims at understanding the conformational and structural requirements for biological activity of glycomimetics, and on the other hand, in collaboration with academic and industrial groups, he explores the therapeutic potential of such compounds in disease models, and in one case, in the clinic (Rivipansel, currently in clinical phase III for the treatment of sickle cell disease) with the ultimate goal to discover new therapeutics.

PD Dr. Oliver Schwardt graduated in chemistry in 1995 at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. In 1999 he completed his Ph. D. under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Volker Jäger at the University of Stuttgart. During that time he stayed for two months as a visiting researcher at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (ICSN-CNRS) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, to work on in vitro cytotoxicity tests. From 1999 to 2000 he worked as a post-doctoral fellow on chemical and chemo-enzymatic synthesis of oligosaccharides at Novartis Pharma AG, Basel. In October 2000 Oliver joined the Molecular Pharmacy group at the University of Basel as senior scientist and lecturer. In May 2015 he received “Habilitation” and was promoted to “Privatdozent” (Senior Lecturer) in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The main topic of his research is the rational design and synthesis of high-affinity ligands for lectins using chemical and chemo-enzymatic methods.

Dr. Said Rabbani graduated in Biology at the University of Nancy, France in 1993. In 1997 he completed his Ph.D. thesis at the department of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Freiburg, Germany (DAAD-Fellow). Thereafter Said received a research visitor position by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) at the department of Genetics and Biotechnology, University of Seville, Spain.
In 1998 he joined the Molecular Pharmacy Group, University of Basel as postdoc-assistant and since 2001 he has held a permanent position as senior scientist and lecturer. The main topic of his research is the biochemical and molecular characterization of specific lectins related to human diseases.