Martin Klapper honored as best young scientist at the Beutenberg Campus

Award recognizes discovery of Stone Age molecules

Award ceremony for"Life Sciences and Physics" science prize of the Beutenberg Campus Jena: P. Zipfel, M. Klapper, P.Stallforth. Source: Tina Peißker

This year's "Life Sciences and Physics" science prize of the Beutenberg Campus Jena for the best young scientist was awarded to Martin Klapper. In particular, the award recognizes his contribution to the discovery of paleofurans, which were once formed by Stone Age oral cavity bacteria.

In the search for new active substances that are urgently needed as antibiotics, for example, researchers are constantly venturing into new regions. So far, they have mainly done so spatially by scouring previously little-studied communities and habitats for organisms that form new substances with interesting properties. Martin Klapper ventured into the temporal dimension as a postdoctoral researcher in a team at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz-HKI). The researchers discovered fragments of DNA in the dental calculus of fossil remains of Neanderthals and humans that indicated the biosynthesis of natural products. Using sophisticated bioinformatic methods, they reassembled these snippets into entire gene clusters and transferred them into modern laboratory bacteria. Equipped with this Stone Age genetic information, the bacteria finally formed a new family of substances - the paleofurans.

This internationally acclaimed research success is thanks to the cooperation between researchers from the fields of archaeology, bioinformatics, molecular biology and chemistry. Coordinated by Martin Klapper, the team overcame technological and disciplinary barriers and broke new scientific ground. This was made possible by generous funding from the Werner Siemens Foundation for the Palaeobiotechnology Department at the Leibniz-HKI, headed by Pierre Stallforth. The chemist works closely with archaeogeneticist Christina Warinner, who is an associate professor at Harvard University and group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Further support came from the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association and the German Research Foundation as part of the Balance of the Microverse Cluster of Excellence and the ChemBioSys Collaborative Research Center.

In this inspiring environment, Martin Klapper was able to fully develop his scientific curiosity, creativity and organizational skills. He kept the threads of the complex project together, tirelessly carried out laboratory work himself and compiled all the data into a publication that appeared in the journal Science and was picked up by numerous international media.

At the age of 34, Martin Klapper already has an impressive list of publications in renowned journals, including five original papers as first author, including the Science study. The award ceremony took place in the festive setting of the "Noble Talks" at the Beutenberg Campus, where this time Martin Lohse, one of Germany's leading pharmacologists and toxicologists, gave a lecture on "Drugs for tomorrow".

Further information on Martin Klapper and his research work can also be found on the websites of the Leibniz-HKI and the Stallforth Lab.

You can find the publication under the following link:

Press release:


Martin Klapper