Former President of the Leibniz Association visits the Leibniz-HKI

| by Friederike Gawlik

Martin Klapper, Anan Ibrahim, Alexander Hübner, Axel Brakhage, Matthias Kleiner, Pierre Stallforth
Martin Klapper, Anan Ibrahim, Alexander Hübner, Axel Brakhage, Matthias Kleiner, Pierre Stallforth (f.l.t.r.). Source: P. Stallforth / Leibniz-HKI

At the end of February, the Leibniz-HKI welcomed Matthias Kleiner, who was President of the Leibniz Association until 2022. Kleiner learned about the latest developments and research projects at the institute. The visit focused primarily on the Department Paleobiotechnology and the new automation platform for the Robotics-assisted Discovery of Anti-infectives.

Matthias Kleiner can look back on an impressive career as an engineer. In addition to his professorship at the Technical University of Dortmund, he is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and was Vice President of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and President of the German Research Foundation (DFG). He has received numerous awards for his outstanding scientific achievements.

Together with Institute Director Axel Brakhage, he not only explored the modern laboratories in the new HKI Biotech Center, but JenXplor – the name of the recently commissioned robotic platform for the automated discovery of new antibiotics – was also of particular interest to engineer Kleiner. This precise, high-throughput technology enables test methods and sample numbers that bridge the gap between science and industry. Among other things, the platform facilitates faster approval procedures for new drugs.

Deputy Institute Director Pierre Stallforth also presented the guest with the current state of development of the new Department Paleobiotechnology. Its research projects are made possible by generous funding from the Werner Siemens Foundation, where Kleiner is a member of the scientific advisory board. The funding opens up unique research opportunities for those involved in a globally unique field of research. One of the aims of Paleobiotechnology is to find natural substances in prehistoric microbiomes, which are extracted from fossil dental calculus or fossilized human faeces using genetic analysis. These active compounds from the past offer new opportunities for the production of novel, resistance-breaking antibiotics. In 2023, the researchers achieved a worldwide sensation: for the first time, natural microbial products obtained from the dental calculus of Neanderthals and humans up to 100,000 years old were reconstructed and thus brought back to “life”.

After the tour, Matthias Kleiner had a lively discussion with Martin Klapper, Alexander Hübner and Anan Ibrahim, the main authors of the study published in the journal Science.

Kleiner was enthusiastic: “For me, the research at the Leibniz-HKI and its equipment reflect the high level of commitment of the institute’s researchers to finding completely new solutions for innovative active compounds against infectious diseases. I am delighted that the Werner Siemens Foundation has also been able to make a contribution to putting these projects into practice here in Jena. Together, we are taking a step towards the future of health research,” he commended.

The institute thanks Matthias Kleiner for his inspiring visit and the fruitful professional discussions.

Since 2020, the Werner Siemens Foundation has been generously funding the newly founded Department of Palaeobiotechnology at the Leibniz-HKI. Its head, Pierre Stallforth, holds a professorship for Bioorganic Chemistry and Paleobiotechnology at the University of Jena.


Pierre Stallforth