No proteins, no life – and no defence against pathogens either. Whether the subject is human, mouse or corn, when it comes to immune defence, proteins are an important element, and they are very similar right across the boundaries of animal and plant cells. If you know all about these proteins, you hold the key to the targeted manipulation of immune defence. Jijie Chai is a leading researcher who investigates the structure of such proteins and special receptors. By describing the complex structures of the proteins he produces important basic knowledge for the fight against plant disease and the development of drugs to combat inflammatory disease. In his research, Chai uses a sophisticated new microscopic method: cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The advent of this method has made it possible to see and analyse the structure and receptors of such proteins for the first time. So far, it is only employed at very few research locations. With Jijie Chai’s research, and technologies like cryo-EM, the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research want to draw their research in medicine, biochemistry and botany closer together.
Nominating University: University of Cologne together with the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Professor Dr Jijie Chai
Born in China in 1966, Jijie Chai has been a full professor in the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing since 2012. Chai initially studied chemistry at various institutes in China and completed his doctorate at Peking Union Medical College. In 1999, he became a postdoc in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University in the USA before returning to Beijing in 2004. Here he was initially an assistant investigator at the National Institute of Biological Sciences and, from 2010, an associate investigator. In 2011, Jijie Chai became a tenure-track professor and subsequently a full professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In April 2017 he took up his position as a Humboldt Professor at the University of Cologne.