Honorary Doctorate for Professor Craig Crews of Yale University

TUD Crews CMPI Dortmund © TU Dortmund

Award from TU Dortmund University for chemical biologist Craig Crews for developing a new class of active substances.

Professor Craig Crews, a chemical biologist from Yale University, is the latest scientist to be awarded an honorary doctorate by TU Dortmund University. With this distinction, the university is acknowledging his services to biochemical research and drug discovery: For over 20 years, Crews has been developing a completely new class of active substances that lead to inactivation of disease-causing proteins which were so far considered to be “undruggable”. The university’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology had already issued the honorary doctorate certificate back in 2021 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and now finally presented it to Professor Crews in person in July. In addition, Dr. Michael Beck from Bayer AG was awarded an honorary professorship during the same ceremony.

In his laudatory speech, Herbert Waldmann, Professor of Biochemistry at TU Dortmund University and Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, commended Professor Craig Crews for his “inspired and truly outstanding scientific achievements”: Crews devised the fundamentally new mechanism of action of “PROTACs”. Many hundreds of scientists in basic research have taken to further exploring this new mechanism of action which the global pharmaceutical industry is promoting as well. The abbreviation stands for “Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras” and describes a multifunctional active substance that binds to disease-relevant proteins and delivers them to the cell’s protein degradation machinery. In this way, these active substances control protein levels and, indirectly, protein function as well. “To do this, PROTACs only need to bind to their target with high selectivity, instead of inhibiting the enzymatic activity of the target protein or preventing protein-protein interactions in a complex process,” highlights Waldmann. This means that the principle can in theory be applied to all proteins for which a ligand can be found, he added, including most proteins that are considered “undruggable” in conventional approaches. Waldmann also praised the Yale professor for his entrepreneurial endeavors. Crews is co-founder of a publicly listed biotech company that is already testing his innovative PROTAC active ingredients in clinical trials.

Professor Stefan M. Kast, Dean of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Professor Gerhard Schembecker, Vice President Finance of TU Dortmund University, handed Professor Craig Crews his honorary doctorate certificate during an official ceremony. This is only the third to be conferred in the research field of chemistry and chemical biology since the university was founded over 50 years ago.

About Professor Craig Crews

Crews studied chemistry at the University of Virginia before completing his doctoral degree at Harvard University. During his studies, he was also a fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Crews has worked at Yale University since 1995, where he is currently Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Professor of Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Management.

Honorary professorship for outstanding services to teaching

During the ceremony, TU Dortmund University also awarded Dr. Michael Beck from Bayer AG an honorary professorship. Beck has contributed to teaching at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology since 2008: He lectures in computational methods in medicinal chemistry and organizes field trips. In his laudatory speech, Daniel Rauh, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology, emphasized that Beck’s dedication to teaching is a great asset for academic training in the department, adding that students benefit from his scientific accomplishments as well as his professional experience. The university confers the title of honorary professor exclusively on distinguished people who have maintained a close relationship with a department over a long period of time. Apart from his teaching duties, Beck is also associated with the department through research partnerships in applied chemical biology, method development for modeling, simulation and artificial intelligence, and especially their application in drug discovery.

About Dr. Michael Beck

Beck joined Bayer AG in 1999, has held management positions in the area of data sciences in the Crop Science Division and today has the status of distinguished science fellow. He works on computational and theoretical methods in chemical biology and drug discovery. His research has been published in prestigious journals and he has filed numerous patents.

Caption (from left): Honorary doctor Craig Crews with honorary professor Michael Beck and Professor Herbert Waldmann.