Meet Dr. Peter Seeberger &
Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern
I was always interested in combining a good, but not too complex, theory with experiments for validation and practical application,” explained Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern.
As colleagues at the Max Planck Society, Dr. Peter Seeberger, Director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, and Dr. Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems both enjoy the autonomy to pursue research topics of their choice. In 2015, the two were awarded the Humanity in Science Award by Phenomenex and The Analytical Scientist for their collective, groundbreaking work producing artemisinin, an antimalarial drug.

Driven by curiosity, Dr. Seeberger entered the field of basic research in chemical and biomedical sciences with the goal of venturing into areas that nobody else had ever explored. After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Seeberger became an Assistant Professor at MIT, earned tenure within three years, and is now a professor at Freie Univerität Berlin. Similarly, Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern followed the path of his own curiosity. Prior to his role at MPI, he received his training in chemical engineering and is also currently a professor of Chemical Process Engineering at the University of Magdeburg. 
Since winning the Humanity in Science Award, both Dr. Seeberger and Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern have continued investigating the photo-oxidation of dihydroartemisinic acid (DHAA) to artemisinin. “The most significant achievement, credited to Susann Triemer, our Ph.D. student, was finding that we do not need the traditional addition of a chemical catalyst,” said Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern. “This is important because the chemical catalyst must be recovered and recycled after the reaction, so this discovery saves effort, time, and resources.”

In addition to discovering a way to replace a chemical catalyst with a natural, cheap, and literally green catalyst, the group has also revolutionized the entire value chain from the fields to the applications of artemisinin.
On the research side of things, we realized that the drug can be used not only to treat malaria, but also a range of types of cancers and different viruses, explained Dr. Seeberger.
“At this moment, human clinical trials are ongoing for the use of artemisinin to treat ovarian cancer and viral infections.”

Among the many moving pieces involved in both Dr. Seeberger and Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern’s research is another shared project that explores the synthesis of affordable drugs. “We often require analytical HPLC during the development process and utilize Phenomenex for those products,” said Dr. Seeberger. Dr. Seidel-Morgenstern, who specializes in separation, continued to explain that “the current project is devoted to investigative racemization reactions and enantioselective crystallization; the columns produced by Phenomenex are very valuable and important for these studies.”

The common thread between all of these projects is that they have a long-lasting, crucial impact on human health. “Fundamental research is important and eventually results in enormous economic benefit,” explained Seeberger. “Investment in basic research will always pay off for society. That’s why I am so grateful to work at MPI. The directors have excellent funding, working conditions, and complete freedom to explore our choice of research topics.”