Budgetary powers and democracy, molecular machines produce new materials, search for the key building blocks for the biosynthesis of anti-cancer drugs

Group Picture of the Scientists, Photo: Michael Kathan
Group Picture of the Scientists, Photo: Michael Kathan

Three new research groups of early career researchers at the HU.

Three young researchers have been accepted into the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Emmy Noether Programme. They are conducting research in the fields of European and constitutional law, synthetic chemistry and synthetic biology.

"No representation without taxation" - Budget and democracy in Europe

A team at the Faculty of Law at Humboldt University (HU) will be researching the topic "’No representation without taxation’ - budgetary powers in the multi-level system". The group is analysing budgetary powers in the multi-level system, particularly in the relationship between the national and European levels. The starting point for the research are current developments in the European Union to react to crises with support funds - for example in 2020 with the establishment of an economic recovery fund during the Covid19 pandemic. These developments should be categorised in terms of European and constitutional law.

Since the beginnings of European integration in the 1950s, the budget of the European Communities and the European Union has changed considerably. Whether previous European measures have substantially restricted the German Bundestag’s budgetary powers has repeatedly been the subject of proceedings before the German Federal Constitutional Court. The research group first analyses the development of budgetary powers as parliamentary prerogative in the German and European legal systems. In a second step, the group will compare the significance of budgetary powers in federally and centrally organised political units. Co-operation partners from various European universities will support the group.

Ruth Weber: "Constitutional history and comparative law are central to our research: the budgetary and own resources law of the European Union has hardly been analysed in terms of constitutional history. We would like to close a gap in research here. The comparative law perspective promises to provide a differentiated picture of the significance of budgetary powers in multi-level systems. Here, too, there is still a gap in research."

The DFG is funding Dr. Ruth Weber’s research as part of an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group with around 1.3 million euros.

The NanoMECHs project - molecular machines produce new materials

The NanoMECHs project aims to develop molecular machines as tools that can be used to realize completely new synthesis processes and materials. To achieve this goal, the research group led by Dr. Michael Kathan is working on targeted mechanically manipulation of large molecules - so-called polymers - to shape them efficiently. In modern synthetic chemistry, methods for the targeted modeling of the three-dimensional shape of molecules have received limited research attention thus far and are only feasible in exceptional cases. The main challenge lies in realizing even simple mechanical motion sequences at the molecular level. This problem is now set to be overcome with specially engineered molecular machines driven by light energy.

Michael Kathan: "Our machines open up completely new ways for scientists to interact with matter in the molecular world. We are currently able to break, stretch or wind polymers using simple mechanical movements. Based on this, much more complex processes, such as braiding or weaving, are conceivable in the future. In this way, new materials with special properties, such as high flexibility and high resistance, could be produced. Similarly, it would then be possible to break down polymers into their individual components at a molecular level and thus develop an alternative to conventional recycling processes. There are almost no limits to the number of new possible applications."

The NanoMECHs project is being funded with approximately 1.5 million euros. In addition to Michael Kathan, the research group currently consists of four more members: Robert Kluifhooft, Mira Müller, Ann-Kathrin Rückert and Tommy Wachsmuth.

COMPLATn platform - Searching for the key building blocks for the biosynthesis of anti-cancer drugs

This would ensure that production is independent of the constant availability of natural sources, which is currently a major challenge. The research group works in the field of synthetic biology, in which biologists, chemists and engineers create biological systems that do not occur in nature.

COMPLATn uses state-of-the-art synthetic biology and robotic bioprocessing technologies to modify yeast cells so that they can efficiently produce high-quality, rare natural products. Dr. Gita Naseri: "Our goal is to harness the potential of microbes that would otherwise not contribute to biosynthesis to synthesize modern, high-value plant-based natural products in an environmentally friendly way. With our approach, we provide a comprehensive platform to identify the essential building blocks required for the synthesis of anti-cancer drugs."

To address the pressing challenges of climate change, healthcare and resource scarcity, a further goal is to generate clean energy sources during the production process and cause minimal to no emissions of natural gases. Therefore, the research group wants to further develop the COMPLATn technology by incorporating the process of plant photosynthesis into the yeast so that the yeast can produce high-quality chemicals with the help of carbon dioxide.

Four research assistants will work in the research group.

Emmy Noether Programm

The Emmy Noether Program of the German Research Foundation DFG serves to promote outstanding young researchers and gives them the opportunity to become university professors over a period of six years.