Structural Biology & Drug Development


For the efficient development of novel cancer drugs and therapies, a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms on the molecular level is essential. Therefore, the identification of the 3D structure of proteins, DNA, RNA and their complexes has a central role in drug development to understand the molecular function of drugs and their interaction partners in cancer patients.

With the Center for Biomolecular Resonance (BMRZ), the Cancer Structural Biology Platform at the DKTK partner site Frankfurt/Mainz has one of the world’s largest centers for NMR-based structural biology. In addition, high resolution structures of protein ligand complexes can be determined by crystallographic methods. The current platform has a state-of-the-art setup for protein crystallization, crystal imaging and structure determination by X-ray crystallography. This platform also offers the possibility of improving hit-to-lead potency by synthetic methods as well as the validation of hit matter using biophysical and biochemical assay systems.


Protein expression in recombinant host systems:
By using the available large scale protein expression and purification platforms via various expression hosts (E. coli, Pichia pastoris, insect and HEK293 cells) we will be able to deliver biomolecules for structural studies.

Determination of high resolution structures
Combination of different structural techniques are well established:

  • NMR spectroscopy (liquid and solid state), 
  • EPR 
  • X-ray crystallography

Biochemical and biophysical assays for hit-to-lead validation

  • MST (Microscale Thermophoresis)
  • ITC (Isothermal titration calorimetry) 
  • Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF)
  • CD (Circular dichroism)
  • nBRET assay technologies for cellular testing

Screening, compound design and synthesis

  • Fragment-based screening including structure determination by crystallography (FBDD)
  • Screening of diverse libraries using biochemical assay systems
  • Medicinal chemistry expertise for hit-to-lead expansion


Structural Biology, Structure-based design, Medicinal Chemistry

Heads of unit:

Prof. Dr. Harald Schwalbe
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology /
Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance

Prof. Dr. Stefan Knapp
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry


Dr. Christian Richter
Tel.: +49 (0)69/798-29353

Dr. Jelena Bozilovic-Djurovic
Tel.: +49 (0)69/798-29317

Dr. Krishna Saxena
Tel.: +49 (0)69/798-29127

Dr. Apirat Chaikuad
Tel.: +49 (0)69/798-29401