Prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant for Professor Kevin Pagel to Do Research on Sugar Structures

December 12, 2019

The chemist Prof. Dr. Kevin Pagel has been awarded a highly endowed Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Pagel is a professor of bioorganic chemistry at Freie Universität Berlin and a visiting researcher at the Fritz Haber Institute.

Over the next five years, Kevin Pagel will use the funds from the European Union (EU) to develop new spectroscopic techniques to investigate the structure of sugars. Sugars are of particular importance in medicine and biology, but are so far only poorly understood. The Consolidator Grant is one of the most prestigious funding schemes of the EU. In this case, it is endowed with the exceptionally high sum of 2.7 million euros. The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded based on the scientific excellence of the principal investigator and the innovative character of the research project.

“Sugars, also referred to as glycans, are omnipresent in nature and play an important role in almost all biological processes,” explains Professor Pagel. “Their highly complex structure,” explains the chemist, “enables great diversity on the one hand, but is also an enormous challenge for the glycosciences on the other.” Both, the chemical synthesis as well as the analysis of sugars is therefore only possible to a limited extent. The scientists have particular problems with electrically charged intermediates, which are so short-lived that they cannot be observed. The ERC-funded project “GlycoSpec” is intended to change this situation. “We want to capture these sugar intermediates in the gas phase and investigate their structure by laser irradiation,” explains Professor Pagel. “Combined with theoretical calculations, it will be possible to create detailed models for those intermediates that are currently problematic for researchers.” In the long run, GlycoSpec will enable the analysis and synthesis of more complex sugars and help to elucidate the role of glycans in biology and medicine.

Kevin Pagel studied chemistry at the University of Leipzig and received his doctorate in 2007 from Freie Universität Berlin. Following postdoctoral research at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, he returned to Berlin in 2011 and started to set up his own research group, first at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society and later at Freie Universität Berlin. He has been a professor at the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Freie Universität Berlin since 2017.

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