Karl Albert Gademann

The Project

Directing neurite outgrowth through synthetic natural products


Dr. Karl Gademann
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (ISIC)
Chemical Synthesis Laboratory
1015 Lausanne


Karl Gademann, 35 year-old Swiss national, is currently an assistant professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).  He received his PhD, completed habilitation at ETH Zurich and carried out postdoctoral research in chemistry at Harvard University. His research interests include the total synthesis of natural products and their application in chemical biology and materials science.

Dr. Gademann has authored or coauthored over forty highly-cited publications and holds two patents. He received a number of awards, including the Swiss Academy of Sciences Prix A.F. Schläfli in 2006, and the Swiss Chemical Society award for best lecture in organic chemistry in 2003. Research from the Gademann’s lab has recently received extensive media coverage (“Alzheimer’s drugs from pond scum”).

Project Description

The emergence of neurodegenerative diseases in industrialized countries represents one of the most significant challenges in human society.  The problems associated with these unmet medical needs are accentuated by limited treatments and the continuing increase in life expectancy. The economic and social impact on patients and their families is considered severe. Many of the neurodegenerative diseases are associated with a decrease of neurites over time.  Therefore, the stimulation of neurite outgrowth represents one successful therapeutic option.  An appealing strategy involves the use of small molecule natural products, derived from plant or bacterial sources. The evolutionary wisdom enshrined in these natural products will be unlocked by synthetic organic chemistry to address fundamental challenges in neurobiology.

In this project, Gademann and his team will prepare neuronal growth factors derived from natural products in order to understand, control and direct neurite outgrowth.  The proposed work will combine their expertise in total synthesis, in neuroactive natural products, and in surface functionalization and will thus enable exciting discoveries in neurobiology.  This approach will not only deliver potential small molecule drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases but also provide unique tools to study and direct neurite outgrowth, helping to understand these fascinating biological phenomena.