Robert Koch Gold Medal 2018
When Staffan Normark looks back to the beginning of his career, he remembers a time when there was much that was simply “new and exciting”. Normark is one of the first researchers to clone a gene in Sweden. In 1980, aged just 35, he became the youngest professor at the university of his home town Umea. In 1983, he founded Symbicom, an early Swedish biotech company, which is now an affiliate of AstraZeneca. Normark had a sure sense for the incredible opportunities that opened up with the new molecular biology instruments. For a long time, he worked on the induction of “AmpC-beta-lactamase” in Escherichia coli and thus the creation of resistances to antibiotics. The beta-lactamases are bacterial enzymes that are able to split the “betalactam ring” of numerous antibiotics, thereby rendering it inactive. The enzymatic de-activation of antibiotics through beta-lactamases is regarded today as being the most common resistance mechanism.