Bioorganic Chemistry



Elk Crew in Communications Chemistry!

December 2018

We are happy to announce that the Elk Crew contributed to the very first volume of the new Nature-Journal "Communications Chemistry". The authors were able to demonstrate and utilize an intriguingly simple system for biocatalytic methylation and demethylation-reactions (although they might argue about the term "simple").


Congratulations go to Judith, Nina, Kathi, Sarah, Mathias and Wolfgang whose hard work and dedication paid off. More such contributions and the impact of this new journal will go through the roof.

Chrstoph Winkler


VIP first-timer

February 2016

It's always highly rewarding when journal referees consider your work "very important", but it's twice as sweet when your very first publication is rated "VIP".

This is exactly what Stefan Payer has achieved: His first publication, based on results from his master's thesis, has just been published as "very important paper" in Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis. The article describes the chemo-enzymatic asymmetric synthesis of an ant venom alkaloid, xenovenine, using ω-transaminases in the key step.


To round things off, this work has also been highlighted on the front cover of the issue, featuring artwork designed by Stefan and former elk-crew member Verena Resch. Check it out!

Jörg Schrittwieser


New Angewandte publications out!

October 2015

The editorial team of Angewandte Chemie received quite some correspondence from Kurt and Wolfgang lately, and we are very glad that three communications from our group were recently accepted for publication in this journal.

Alex Dennig, Mélanie Hall, and Kurt Faber have teamed up with researchers from Evonik Industries and report on the oxidative decarboxylation of fatty acids to terminal alkenes using the P450 monooxygenase OleT. Their publication was highlighted as a ‘Very Important Paper’.

Only a month and a half later, Eduardo Busto, Robert Simon, and Wolfgang Kroutil followed with a paper describing a novel multi-enzyme system for the vinylation of phenol derivatives, which featured on the inside front cover of its issue:

Finally, our guest researcher from Iran, Somayyeh Gandomkar, published her work in Angewandte as well. Her paper, which also features Eva-Maria Fischereder, Joerg Schrittwieser, colleagues from TU Graz, and of course Wolfgang on the author list, deals with a promiscuous activity of berberine bridge enzyme (BBE)—an enantioselective N-dealkylation:

So much for our Angewandte triple-decker! With several exciting projects currently running, we hope we can keep up our output of high-impact papers also next year.

Joerg Schrittwieser


VIP elks

May 2015

We are very happy to announce that some elks have become VIPs very recently! — No, not in the conventional Hollywood-like meaning (even though I assume they would outplay some of Hollywood’s VIPs for sure).

The work of Nikolaus G. Turrini, Melanie Hall and Kurt Faber on the Enzymatic Synthesis of Optically Active Lactones via Asymmetric Bioreduction using Ene-Reductases from the Old Yellow Enzyme Family was published in Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis and is classified as a Very Important Paper!


The early view is already available in the current issue and is definitely worth a read!

The same issue also hosts another VIP paper form our group: This time it is a review on Biocatalytic Imine Reduction and Reductive Amination of Ketones brought to you by Jörg Schrittwieser, Stefan Velikogne and Wolfgang Kroutil.

Want to know what the review looks like in colour? Well, you are lucky, this publication also decorates the cover of the journal.


For details also go to the current issue of Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis.

Verena Resch


2014 in review—the business part

January 2015

Again, a year has passed, and it has been a good year for our group! Our labs are packed with students and PostDocs, myriads of experiments have been carried out, analysed, interpreted, and published, we've won some awards here and there, and besides all that we even found time to hone our kayaking skills. Below we have compiled a short summary of our research efforts in 2014 – if you are looking for some more information on (and photos of) our spare-time activities, make sure to check out the ‘leisure part’ of our retrospect!

Research & Publications:

SCOPUS lists 27 journal articles from our group for 2014, and in addition we have published several book chapters; for instance, in the Science of Synthesis series. Angewandte communications continued to come in pairs, as Joerg Schrittwieser et al. have reported on the stereoconvergent transformation of racemic benzylisoquinolines into (S)-berbines, while Johann Sattler et al. have introduced a multi-enzyme system for the conversion of cyclohexanol into the nylon building block 6-aminohexanoic acid. The latter publication has also featured on the back cover of its issue!

Apart from that, we have continued playing around with our most favourite enzymes of recent years – ω-transaminases, ene reductases, and sulfatases – and have investigated novel biocatalysts for alkaloid synthesis, cascade protocols for the preparation of α-hydroxy acids, and various ways of combining biocatalytic and chemical reactions.


Like last year, we could again celebrate a couple of awards in 2014: A group of elks around Wolfgang and Robert made it to the finals of the “Wolfgang Houska” prize awarded by the B&C Privatstiftung with their streamlined chemo-enzymatic total synthesis of the antifeedant dihydropinidine. Stefan Payer was awarded a stipend by the Styrian Economic Chamber for his Masters thesis, which deals with the synthesis of the ant venom alkaloid xenovenine using ω-transaminases. And in mid December, Horst and Eva received early presents, as they both won the PhD prize of the Doctoral School of Chemistry.

News & Views:

Occasionally our research features in local or Austrian newspapers, and in 2014 we have been exceptionally successful in communicating our work to a wider audience: Die Presse and Der Standard reported on our novel (and, admittedly, strange-sounding) combination of biocatalysts from California poppy and from a black mould, which enables the asymmetric synthesis of berbine alkaloids. In addition, Die Presse published two articles in which our efforts towards biocatalytic production of plastic monomers were highlighted – one general feature on bioplastics and a report on our novel method for 6-aminohexanoic acid production.

Joerg Schrittwieser


2014 in review—the leisure part

January 2015

The beginning of 2015 is of course the perfect time to take a short glimpse into the past to see what was going on in the elk group in 2014.

Besides the research, we also spent some time on fun activities. Most memorable were for sure the Kleeblattlauf (literally translated as cloverleaf-race, a relay race with teams of four) and also our trip to Slovenia to spend our traditional adventure weekend on the river Soča. If you ever wondered what running elks look like or how we do in boats, here are some impressions:

Running Elks Grapes Kayak 1 Kayak 2 Rafting 1 Rafting 2 Jump

Verena Resch


One new and two "almost new" group members

February 2014

New people join our group quite regularly, but sometimes they look strikingly familiar: Tamara Reiter has been working in our group for several years, supporting Petra Gadler in her quest for novel sulfatases. After switching to the group of Georg Guebitz at TU Graz for some time, she has recently returned to our labs to work on enzymatic carboxylation reactions.

Likewise, Joerg Schrittwieser (previously a master and PhD student in our group) has returned from his post-doctoral stay in Delft/NL, where he has discovered the wonderful world of nanoparticles and the staggering flatness of the Dutch landscape. Back in Graz, he has delved into teaching lab courses as part of his new position as University Assistant.

A truly new addition to our group is Stefan Payer, a friendly fellow from the mountainous North of Styria, who has joined us just a week ago for his master thesis, which deals with the synthesis of alkaloids using ω-transaminases.

Joerg Schrittwieser


2013 in review

February 2014

It's February 2014, already 8 weeks into the new year, so it's about time to take a look back at what has happened in our group in 2013. We have engaged in many exciting research projects, published a lot of articles, won a couple of awards, and celebrated the 60th birthday of our “Oberelch”, Kurt. And most importantly, we've had a lot of fun in the process!

Research & Publications:

We have published almost 30 research and review articles in 2013, highlighted by two communications in Angewandte Chemie to start the year: Christiane Wuensch et al. reported on the asymmetric hydration of hydroxystyrenes catalysed by decarboxylases, while Markus Schober et al. have developed a deracemisation method for alkyl sulfates based on the use of two enantiocomplementary sulfatases:

Ene-reductases and ω-transaminases have continued to be our most intensively investigated research topics, but we have also been active in enzymatic cleavage of C=C double and C–C single bonds, biocatalytic carboxylation, and even a little bit of organocatalysis.


2013 has brought several prizes and awards for our group: Silvia and her coworkers have won the “Wolfgang Houska” prize of the B&C Privatstiftung with the biocatalytic carboxylation project, and Mélanie has been awarded the “Anton Paar” science prize by the Austrian Chemical Society (GÖCH). And finally, our alumni Hansi Sattler and Michi Fuchs have jointly been awarded the “University Research Award” of the Industriellenvereinigung Steiermark for their work on the biocatalytic transformation of diols to diamines.
The latter project has also made it into the newspapers, and although “snowboards from protein” might not be the most accurate description of what the research was all about, we do appreciate the public interest.

Social Activities:

Besides our traditional “adventure weekend” (which, despite its being particularly adventurous in 2013, was once again completed without any casualties), the chestnut eating session, or the newly introduced movie nights, there was one very special occasion for a group gathering this year: Believe it or not, Kurt has turned 60 last autumn! Needless to say, though, that thanks to his regular mountaineering, kayaking, biking and ski-touring trips he is still fitter than most of the younger group members. So, congratulations, and keep up the good spirit!

Joerg Schrittwieser