Research Award of the University of Luebeck 2017

  • Lei, Jian (Award Recipient)

Prize: Awards of the University of Luebeck

General Description

The Research Award of the University of Luebeck 2017 goes to Dr. Jian Lei. He is awarded for his work "Crystal structure of Zika virus NS2B-NS3 protease in complex with a boronate inhibitor". The work was published in 2016 in the prestigious journal Science [Lei J., Hansen G., Nitsche C., Klein CD., Zhang L., Hilgenfeld R., 2016. Science 353, 503-505]. The laudatory speech will be given by Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Rolf Hilgenfeld, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry.

Born in Xi'An, China in 1981, Dr. Lei studied molecular biology and biochemistry at Peking University, where he received a PhD in structural biology in 2009. Since the function of a protein is determined by its structure, Dr. Lei's scientific interest lies in detecting the three-dimensional structure of viral proteins in particular. Since 2009, Dr. Lei has been working in the group of the renowned structural virologist Prof. Hilgenfeld. During this time, Dr. Lei has been able to conduct groundbreaking research at the interface of biochemistry, structural biology, and pharmaceutical chemistry, and has elucidated many structures of important viral proteins. Competing with groups from Canada, China, the U.S., and Singapore, he achieved the first structural description of the papain-like protease of MERS coronavirus (2014) and the NS2B-NS3 protease of Zika virus (2016). The latter virus was first isolated in Uganda as early as 1947. Epidemics were reported in the Yap Islands in 2007 and on several islands in the South Pacific in 2013/14. A severe outbreak followed in 2015/16, beginning in South America, where infection with Zika virus has been linked to mircocephaly in newborns and Guillian-Barré syndrome in adults. It is transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which also contribute to the spread of yellow fever virus, dengue virus, and chikungunya virus. It has also been documented that Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. In February 2016, the Zika virus outbreak was declared a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO). Back in July 2016, Dr. Lei determined the three-dimensional structure of NS2B-NS3 protease, a key enzyme of the virus, in complex with a potent inhibitor. This work provides detailed insight into the processing of the viral polyprotein and lays the groundwork for structure-based drug development to treat Zika virus infections.

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 Organisations

Awarded at event

Event titleUniversity Awards 2017
LocationRathaus der Hansestadt Lübeck, Lübeck, GermanyShow on map

Research Area or Academic Center

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