Dr Jeannine Hess
Lecturer in Chemistry
Jeannine obtained her PhD in 2016 from the University of Zurich under the supervision of Professor Gilles Gasser, where she first committed to fight parasitic diseases. She designed, synthesised and evaluated a range of metal-based molecules to find cures for various parasitic worm infections that are an immersive threat to humans and livestock.
Determined to continue finding new solutions against infectious diseases, Jeannine secured a SNSF Early Postdoc. Mobility Fellowship to join the research group of Professor Chris Abell at the University of Cambridge, where she focused on structural guided drug design to find cures for Tuberculosis (TB). In 2018, Jeannine was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship to continue her projects but also to focus on alternative antimicrobial agents using fragment-based drug discovery approaches.
In 2021, Jeannine joined the Francis Crick Institute and King’s College London as a Group Leader and Lecturer to further pursue her passion to fight infectious diseases. In the newly established Biological Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, her group will focus on the development of rationally designed metal-based antimicrobials.
We are developing the next generation of antibiotics by rationally designing metal-based molecules that trigger processes to kill pathogens.
The emergence of bacteria resistant to all classes of antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to human health. Estimates predict a chilling prospect of over 10 million deaths each year from drug-resistant infections by 2050 if antibiotic resistance continues to rise at the current rate.
There is little doubt that we must move beyond conventional drug discovery programs, which too often rely on minor modifications of known antibiotics to generate only marginally different “me-too drugs”. It is easy for microbes to develop resistance against these.
We use rational approaches to generate new antibiotic scaffolds, the structural ‘frame’ on which an antibiotic is built. We start by identifying small and simple molecules that can bind to a protein target of a pathogen by using a range of biophysical techniques. We then develop and refine these compounds to create molecules that bind more effectively through iterative cycles of design and chemical synthesis guided by structural analysis.
We are especially interested in generating metal-containing compounds, as metal centres can bring new features to organic scaffolds. Besides increasing shape diversity, they can bring about new, metal-specific modes of action, like ligand exchange reactions, the catalysis of chemical reactions, or the production of reactive oxygen species. We will leverage these unique features to develop next-generation antibiotics.