Research Award of the University of Luebeck 2016

Prize: Awards of the University of Luebeck

General Description

Dr. Alvaro Mallagaray de Benito receives the university`s Research Award 2016 for his publication "Attachment of Norovirus to Histo Blood Group Antigens: A Cooperative Multistep Process." His work was published last year in the prestigious journal Angewandte Chemie [Mallagaray et al. (2015) Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 54, 12014-12019]. The laudatory speech was given by Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Norbert Tautz, Director of the Institute of Virology and Cell Biology at the University of Lübeck.

Born in 1978 in Vitoria, Spain, Dr. Mallagaray studied pharmacology and chemistry at the CEU San Pablo University in Madrid, where he earned a European doctorate in medicinal chemistry in 2012. In early 2013, Dr. Mallagaray joined the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Luebeck with a prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship.
He is dedicated to the question of how noroviruses recognize molecular structures on host cell surfaces. These structures are sugar structures, the so-called histoblood group antigens, which are responsible for the expression of blood groups. The aim of the work is to decipher the mechanism of molecular recognition.
It was known that noroviruses require specific building blocks in sugar structures for recognition. However, even though some structural details of the binding were known, the process of binding of the viral surface proteins to these sugar structures was unclear.

Using high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR spectroscopy), Dr. Mallagaray was able to show that the binding process is gradual and that more than the previously assumed binding sites on the virus surface can come into contact with the sugar structures. He was further able to show that the recognition reaction is a so-called cooperative process. Even if the biological meaning of this complex binding behavior is not yet apparent, it can be assumed that it represents an advantage in the life cycle of the virus. In any case, the new findings now provide a basis on which novel antiviral therapeutics can be developed.

Currently, Dr. Mallagaray is focusing on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of sugar recognition in detail and developing new antiviral therapeutics as part of a ViroCarb research group funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR2327; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thilo Stehle, Tuebingen; Deputy Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Peters, Luebeck).

The university`s Research Award has been awarded since 2004 as "Heinrich-Dräger-Wissenschaftspreis", initiated by the Lübeck patron and recipient of the University Medal Lisa Dräger, for a high-ranking scientific publication from the university.
Degree of recognitionLocal
Granting OrganisationsUniversity of Luebeck

Awarded at event

Event titleUniversity Awards 2016
LocationRathaus der Hansestatdt Lübeck, Lübeck, GermanyShow on map
Period10.11.2016

Research Area or Academic Center

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)
  • Centers: Center for Structural and Cell Biology (CSCM/ZMSZ)