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Streptococcus pneumoniae kills millions of people worldwide. For the subgroup serotype 8, prevalent in the United States and Western Europe, there is no vaccine to date. In this video, PETER H. SEEBERGER explains the approach of his research group to create a synthetic sugar vaccine against this bacterial infection that works in mice. They relied on synthetic chemistry to assemble sugar chains from monomers; the researchers then connected them to a carrier protein and tested whether they were immunogenic – causing an immune response in living organisms – and whether they were protective. Thus they succeeded in creating the vaccine. Their results have inspired further work in the area in the hope of finding a vaccine for humans. On a fundamental level, the researchers also found that the way in which sugars are presented to the immune system matters with respect to immunogenicity and protection. This has strong implications for future vaccine design.


Peter H. Seeberger is Director at the Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and Professor at the Freie Universität in Berlin. In 2013, he was elected to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. His research on the chemistry and biology of carbohydrates, carbohydrate vaccine development and continuous flow synthesis of drug substances has been widely published and has been recognized with more than twenty-five international awards. Six successful companies have been spun out of the research conducted in the Seeberger laboratory. The Professor is editor-in-chief of the open-access Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry. His work on neglected diseases has influenced his philanthropic commitment and he is a co-founder of the Tesfa-Ilg “Hope for Africa” Foundation.


Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

Colloids and interfaces consist of very small or thin structures with linear dimensions between nanometers and micrometers. On the one hand, the possible structures represent a „world of hidden dimensions“. On the other hand, the dynamics and structures of these small entities determine the behavior of much larger systems such as organisms.

A more systematic understanding of colloids and interfaces is a prerequisite for many innovations, such as „smart“ drug delivery systems and biomaterials. Such a deeper understanding can only arise from an interdisciplinary approach that combines chemical synthesis and biomimetic materials science with physical analysis and characterization as well as theoretical modelling. The nano- and microstructures that are investigated at the MPICI are built up from special, even smaller molecules, which are using the principle of “self assembly” to construct ordered structures.

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Original publication

A Semisynthetic Streptococcus Pneumoniae Serotype 8 Glycoconjugate Vaccine

others, Seeberger Peter H., Schumann Benjamin, Hahm Heung Sik, Parameswarappa Sharavathi G., Reppe Katrin, Wahlbrink Annette, Govindan Subramanian, Kaplonek Paulina, Pirofski Liise-anne, Witzenrath Martin and Anish Chakkumkal
Science Translational Medicine
Published in 2017

Chemical Assembly Systems: Layered Control for Divergent, Continuous, Multistep Syntheses of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Ghislieri Diego, Gilmore Kerry and Seeberger Peter H.
Angewandte Chemie International Edition
Published in 2015

The Logic of Automated Glycan Assembly

Seeberger Peter H.
Accounts of Chemical Research
Published in 2015