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Research project on Host-Guest Chemistry at Jacobs University

Chemistry Professor Ulrich Kortz leads the research project on host-guest chemistry at Jacobs University Bremen. (Source: Jacobs University)


May 22, 2022
They are as circular as a wheel and enclose a space with a diameter of about two nanometers. Researchers at Jacobs University Bremen led by Professor of Chemistry Ulrich Kortz want to use such a cavity of a molecule based on molybdenum and oxygen to be able to transport medically active substances into the body in a targeted manner. The three-year basic research project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with approximately 230,000 euros.

The accurate, sustained and consistent delivery and release of active substances to combat disease is one of the great challenges of medicine. Host-guest chemistry can contribute here significantly. In this process, a host molecule and a guest molecule form a chemical bond.

The carrier system, the host, on which the scientists at Jacobs University are conducting research, is a ring-shaped molecule based on the transition metal molybdenum. The molecular metal-oxygen compound belongs to the class of compounds known as polyoxometalates, which Professor Kortz and his team have been researching for more than three decades. They can be produced in the laboratory using water and various reagents. Some rings already exist, and Professor Kortz's team plans to create others.

From a chemical point of view, the cavity that houses the biomedically relevant guest molecules is relatively large at two nanometers – the equivalent of two millionths of a millimeter. One of the challenges of the research is to achieve a balance between host and guest by modeling the ring appropriately. "The binding of the guest molecule to the host has to be strong enough to hold it temporarily. But, it also has to be loose enough to be able to release the guest," Kortz explained. Supramolecular interactions in particular play a crucial role here. Guests can be various organic molecules with pharmaceutical effects, such as antibiotics or antiarrhythmics. Host molecules in aqueous solution at a physiological pH of 7-8 as well as solid state-based host systems are being investigated.

The research project includes collaborations with scientists from the University of Oldenburg, Spain and Serbia. It is linked to the creation of new scientific positions at Jacobs University. 

Questions answered:
Ulrich Kortz
Professor of Chemistry
u.kortz [at]
Tel.: +49 421 200-3235