Andreas Plückthun

Director of Department of Biochemistry at the University of Zürich

Andreas Plückthun has been Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Zürich, Switzerland since 1993. He studied chemistry at the University of Heidelberg (Germany). He received a PhD from the University of California at San Diego in 1982 (with Ed Dennis), was postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University (1982-85) (with Jeremy Knowles) and from 1985 until 1993, group leader at the Gene Center and Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich. 

He has written over 475 publications, which have been cited 50’000 times (h-index 120) [Google Scholar]. In 2003, he was elected to the German Academy of Science. In 1992, he was elected member of EMBO.

He received, among others, the 2016 Christian-Anfinsen Award of the Protein Society for “pioneering contributions to protein engineering”, and the Swiss Technology Award 2005 (Bern, Switzerland) and the deVigier Award in 2005, the JP Morgan Chase Health Award in 2002 (San Jose, USA) and the Wilhelm Exner Medal 2002 (Vienna, Austria), the Karl-Heinz-Beckurts-Prize for 2000 (Munich, Germany), and the Young Investigator’s Award of the German Industry Fund. 

He has been an inventor on 25 patent families and is co-founder of three companies, Morphosys AG (ca. 450 employees, Martinsried, Germany; listed on TECDAX, market cap about 3 bn CHF), Molecular Partners AG (ca. 150 employees, Zürich, Switzerland; listed on Swiss Exchange, market cap ca. 0.65 bn CHF) and G7 Therapeutics (Zürich, Switzerland; recently divested to Heptares/Sosei [UK/Japan]).

His research in protein engineering has made important contributions to four areas

  • Antibody engineering: he developed the first antibody expression in E. coli, the first fully synthetic antibody library and made many contributions to antibody stability and design
  • Scaffold engineering: he developed the repeat proteins as alternative scaffolds, especially the DARPin technology, and the Armadillo technology
  • Directed evolution: he developed ribosome display, the first truly in vitro protein evolution method
  • GPCR engineering: he developed directed evolution methods for making G-protein coupled receptors stable for structural biology, drug design and screening.

His laboratory combines biophysical studies, directed evolution and biomedical applications. His most recent work is on developing targeted gene therapy by exploiting protein engineering with synthetic viruses.