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NCCR Chemical Biology

The NCCR Chemical Biology is a nation-wide centre led by the University of Geneva and the EPFL consisting of research groups across Switzerland with the common objective to use chemistry tools to obtain a better understanding of life at the molecular level. Started on December 1, 2010, it ended on November 30, 2022.

Chemical Biology is a relatively new discipline which follows in the tradition of Biological Chemistry and Biochemistry. It distinguishes itself from its predecessors as it focuses on the uses of chemistry to probe living systems in situ. The Chemical Biology field is now developing intensively, as until now, few technologies could characterize in detail the countless biochemical activities that constitute a living cell.

NCCR Chemical Biology’s vision is to develop novel chemical tools and pursue innovative techniques based on small molecules and proteins to obtain new information about cellular processes and control them in situ. The new tools are applicable to various biological phenomena like visualising the activity of selected proteins during cell division and investigating how membranes control the activity of proteins in them.

Chemical biology is destined to answer questions in biology in the broadest sense by using chemistry, chemical techniques or novel chemical probes, but with the biology in the center of the work. Chemical biology differs from biochemistry because the latter is usually defined as a disassembled and reconstituted system of biomolecules whereas chemical biology might be targeting or attempting to understand chemistry in intact cells, tissues or whole animal systems.

Carsten Schultz (European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany)

The network represents a joint effort between two universities, 25 professors and over 100 researchers coming from different areas of expertise: chemistry, biochemistry, physics and cell biology. A dynamic mix of established and junior groups are currently collaborating on 4 interactive and interconnected large projectschemistry provides new tools for biophysics, mass spectrometry quantitation of metabolites and lipids, in vivo detection of small molecules and methods to characterise and breach biological membranes.

These projects are also supported by a national  platform for chemical screening, ACCESS, aimed at developing a new generation of molecules with biological effects.

The NCCR Chemical Biology’s mission encompass alongside the scientific goals, knowledge and technology transfer activities as well as education of the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists, while promoting gender equality and outreach activities to the wider society. Indeed, we have established programmes designed to educate and train in chemical biology and interdisciplinary, from the master degree level to the PhD level. We are actively engaging in gender equality and advancement of women with innovative initiatives and measures. We show strong communication efforts to publicise our ground-breaking research and develop at large a culture in chemical biology on our blog. Finally, our knowledge and technology transfer programme is included in the entrepreneurship training ecosystem thanks to a Swiss-wide initiative which helps aspiring hard-core scientists become entrepreneurs.

The NCCR Chemical Biology was launched on the 1st of December 2010 and ended on November 30, 2022. During 12 years, it received a funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the higher education institutions (UNIGE, EPFL) and third parties.