ChemBioChem Has Come of Age


  • Peter Gölitz,

  • Adrian Neal,

  • Lisa Abel

Chemical biology has been on the rise ever since it started to become a field in its own right out of the merging of chemistry and biology in the early nineties. More recently, we have seen that increasing activity in chemical-biological research has been dedicated to, for example, epigenetics, stem cells and super-resolution imaging and the more traditional areas covered by the practitioners of the art are busier than ever. Biologists are increasingly discovering that chemistry can help them find solutions to the convoluted, complex problems that they face in areas such as signal transduction. Likewise, chemists are harnessing the power of biology and, at the same time, making advances in topics such as biosynthesis, and directed evolution. The interdisciplinary solutions provided by chemical biology complement the other, also relatively young, fields of bioinformatics and systems biology.

You may have already noticed that more than one or two changes have taken place at ChemBioChem as you carefully read Issue 1. We have a new Editorial Advisory Board. Outgoing Chairmen Sir Alan Fersht (top)

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and Jean-Marie Lehn (bottom)

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have done a superb job of heading a very international panel of experts in areas related to chemical biology and have certainly helped ChemBioChem become one of the most popular journals in this field. We also say farewell to those board members who are leaving—many of whom after two five-year terms of office—with a big “thank you” (Table 1).

Table 1. Outgoing Editorial Advisory Board members.
Karl-Heinz AltmannRob Liskamp
Padmanabhan BalaramMatthias Mann
Jean-Paul BehrBengt Mannervik
Stephen BenkovicDino Moras
Johannes BuchnerKyriacos Nicolaou
Samuel DanishefskyPeter Nielsen
François DiederichAndreas Plückthun
Michael FamulokMichel Rohmer
Jacques FastrezBruno Samori
Andrew GriffithsJens Schneider-Mergener
Robert HuberStuart Schreiber
Fotis KafatosWojciech Stec
Tarun KapoorJoAnne Stubbe
Martin KarplusMathias Uhlén
Horst KesslerConstant van Boeckel
Makoto KomiyamaJohn Walker
Bernhard KräutlerGünther Wess
Steven LeyKurt Wüthrich
David LilleyAda Yonath
Stephen Lippard 

On behalf of ChemPubSoc Europe, an association of 14 chemical societies in continental Europe and the publishers Wiley-VCH, we would like to welcome Thomas Carell

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(University of Munich, top), Donald Hilvert

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(ETH Zürich, middle) and Barbara Imperiali

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(MIT, bottom) as our new chairs, as well as a significant number of new Editorial Advisory Board members (Table 2).

Table 2. New members on the ChemBioChem Editorial Advisory Board.
Lars BaltzerUppsala University (Sweden)
Helen BlackwellUniversity of Wisconsin—Madison (USA)
Ronald BreakerYale University (USA)
Christopher ChangUniversity of California, Berkeley (USA)
Philip ColeJohns Hopkins School of Medicine (USA)
David CraikUniversity of Queensland (Australia)
Craig CrewsYale University (USA)
Benjamin DavisUniversity of Oxford (UK)
Marc FontecaveCEA Grenoble (France)
Helmut GrubmüllerMax Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
Itaru HamachiKyoto University (Japan)
Albert HeckNetherlands Proteomics Centre (Netherlands)
Piet HerdewijnKU Leuven (Netherlands)
Paul HergenrotherUniversity of Illinois (USA)
Christian HertweckUniversity of Jena (Germany)
Michal HocekAcademy of Sciences (Czech Republic)
Jésus Jiménez-BarberoCentro de Investigaciones Biologicas (Spain)
Kai JohnssonInstitute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering
Thomas KiefhaberTechnische Universität München (Germany)
Eric KoolStanford University (USA)
Yamuna KrishnanNational Centre for Biological Sciences (India)
Hilal LashuelSwiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (Switzerland)
Dongsheng LiuTsinghua University (China)
Mohamed MarahielPhilipps Universität Marburg (Germany)
Jose Luis MascareñasUniversidad de Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
Stefan MatileUniversity of Geneva (Switzerland)
Ron MicuraLeopold Franzens University (Austria)
Bradley MooreScripps Institution of Oceanography (USA)
May MorrisCentre de Recherche en Biochemie
 Macromoléculaire (France)
Herman OverkleeftUniversiteit Leiden (Netherlands)
Carsten SchultzEuropean Molecular Biology Laboratory,
 Heidelberg (Germany)
Peter SeebergerMax Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Injae ShinYonsei University (South Korea)
Scott SilvermanUniversity of Illinois (USA)
Hanadi SleimanMcGill University (Canada)
Mikiko SodeokaAdvanced Science Institute, RIKEN (Japan)
Hiroaki SugaUniversity of Tokyo (Japan)
Weihong TanUniversity of Florida (USA)
Dirk TraunerLMU München (Germany)
Wilfred van der DonkUniversity of Illinois (USA)
Nicolas WinssingerInstitut de Science et d'Ingénierie
 Supramoléculaires (France)

On behalf of all three chairs, Thomas Carell outlined his vision of ChemBioChem's future:

“Chemistry defines itself as the science that investigates the principles of connecting and disconnecting chemical bonds. Chemists are developing new methods and catalysts to control these bond-making and bond-breaking reactions with particular emphasis on stereochemical control. Over the last decade, alongside these traditional approaches, we have seen the emergence of a discipline today called chemical biology that grew out of organic and bioorganic chemistry, molecular and structural biology. Chemists realized that living systems create themselves based on interactions that they were able to describe with the language of chemistry. This forced chemists to look deeper into these living systems and soon major questions in biology emerged that are only addressable with molecules able to interfere with living systems. Manipulation of living ”matter“ requires utilization of the knowledge of synthetic and supramolecular chemistry. Today in an emancipated chemical biology world, scientists approach biological questions routinely with all branches of chemistry. Chemists and now also biologists and physicists use chemistry as a tool to investigate problems at the interface between chemistry and biology. Chemical biology has also benefitted from developments in molecular, structural and cell biology and also from the development of the chemists and biologists themselves, who are learning each others' skills through programs of interdisciplinary training. Hot topics and future challenges include the development of molecules able to interfere with cellular developmental processes. The idea is to differentiate and re-differentiate cells with the help of small organic molecules. Carbohydrate chemistry needs to be further developed and utilized in order to create new vaccination strategies from the knowledge that cancer cells and many pathogens possess unique carbohydrate structures at their cell surfaces that allow quick differentiation of these cells from healthy tissue. Finally, nucleoside chemistry needs to be further developed and utilized in order to learn how the genetic material is maintained. We need to understand how nature stabilizes the fragile DNA molecule in order to transport genetic information from one generation to the other. Genetic information needs to be maintained, which is a tremendous challenge if we just recall that our best man-made information storage systems last at maximum only a few decades. And finally, we have to develop RNAi into powerful next-generation pharmaceuticals. These are just a few examples of biologically relevant questions that can only be addressed by scientists who are able to connect and break either covalent or noncovalent chemical bonds. Chemical biology is one of the few disciplines that is able to gain insight into all these complex questions of life with atomic resolution. The journal ChemBioChem was among the first created to publish new developments in this exciting and expanding discipline. Let's start publishing our best results in ChemBioChem, in order to turn this journal into the leading journal for chemical biologists worldwide.”

2010 was a true milestone year for ChemBioChem as the journal celebrated its 10th birthday, along with its sister publication ChemPhysChem, with an outstanding one-day symposium in May in Paris (see conference report, ChemBioChem2010, 11, 1487–1491 ( Eight speakers, including no less than four Nobel Laureates captivated over 600 delegates and an additional huge online audience. At the same time, Wiley-VCH and ChemPubSoc Europe launched ChemViews

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(, a new online magazine.

As ever, ChemBioChem attracted manuscripts from all around the world in 2010, with most of them coming from the USA, Germany and China (see Figure 1). This proves that although we are a European-based journal, our core strength—the science—has truly worldwide foundations. Figure 1 shows submissions by country and this diversity is reflected also in the nationalities of the authors of our most cited (Table 3) and downloaded (Table 4) articles from 2010.

Figure 1.

Country of origin of the ChemBioChem articles received in 2010.

Table 3. ChemBioChem's top five most cited articles from the first six months of 2010.
TitleCorresponding authorType of paper
Principles and Applications of the Photochemical Control of Cellular Processes Deitersconcept
Analysis of the Liposidomycin Gene Cluster Lead to the Identification of New Caprazamycin Derivatives Gustfull paper
Crystal Structure of the Human Monoacylglycerol Lipase, a Key Actor in the Endocannabinoid Signalling Lambertfull paper
Biocatalysis with Thermostable Enzymes: Structure and Properties of a Thermophilic “Ene”-Reductase Related to Old Yellow Enzyme Scruttonfull paper
Haloacetamidine-Based Inactivators of Protein Arginine Deiminase 4 (PAD4): Evidence that General Acid Catalysis Promotes Efficient Inactivation Thompsoncommunication
Table 4. ChemBioChem's top ten most downloaded articles from the first six months of 2010.
TitleCorresponding authorType of paper
Two-Step Labeling of Endogenous Enzymatic Activities by Diels-Alder Ligation Overkleeftfull paper
Delivery of Oligonucleotides and Analogues: The Oligonucleotide Conjugate-Based Approach Giovannangeliminireview
Azide: A Unique Dipole for Metal-Free Bioorthogonal Ligations van Delftreview
Giant Vesicles: Preparations and Applications Stanoreview
Determination of Carbohydrate-Binding Preferences of Human Galectins with Carbohydrate Microarrays Seebergerfull paper
Cloning and Characterization of the Biosynthetic Gene Cluster of 16-Membered Macrolide Antibiotic Fd-891: Involvement of a Dual Functional Cytochrome P450 Monooxygenase Catalyzing Epoxidation and Hydroxylation Eguchifull paper
A Single-Electrode, Dual-Potential Ferrocene-PNA Biosensor for the Detection of DNA Metzler-Noltefull paper
Parallel Incorporation of Different Fluorinated Amino Acids: On the Way to “Teflon” Proteins Budisacommunication
Design of Lanthanide Fingers: Compact Lanthanide-Binding Metalloproteins Zondlofull paper
In Vivo Efficacy of Natural Product-Inspired Irreversible Kinase Inhibitors Winssingerfull paper

Turning our attention to 2011, this year will see two special issues of ChemBioChem. Issue 2, which will surface on your screen or hit your desk next, is devoted to the chemical biology of epigenetics, with an emphasis on histone modifications. Epigenetics is an exciting area that continues to provide excellent examples of how scientists, using chemistry, can make breakthroughs in the understanding of fundamental biology. Our guest editors for this special issue are Wolfgang Fischle (MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen) and Albert Jeltsch (Jacob's University, Bremen).

Our second special issue deals with the directed evolution of enzymes. ChemBioChem has always been a popular venue for papers in this area, and the special issue will be a timely reminder that by adding to nature's range of catalysts, biology can be a powerful tool for doing chemistry. We are very pleased to have Reinhard Sterner (University of Regensburg) as a guest editor for this issue, which will appear in early summer.

2011 is also a very special year for Angewandte Chemie, as its International Edition publishes its 50th volume. The golden jubilee issue 1/2011 contains a wealth of eminently readable reviews, among them from Peter Schultz et al. on “chemistry and stem cells”, a topic that we will also cover more and more in ChemBioChem.

Finally, a reminder (not that you need it) that 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011)

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—a worldwide celebration of chemistry and its contribution to humankind. Make a new year's resolution to celebrate IYC 2011 with us at ChemBioChem!

Happy New Year!

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