An alchemical symbol with the words ‘εν το παν’ (‘one is the all’) which inspired Kekulé in a dream to discover the structure of benzene.
Hannes Mikula  

Hannes Mikula: “The Dream Chemistry Award was an amazing experience.”

An interview with Hannes Mikula (Vienna University of Technology, Austria), the TOP 5 finalist of the Dream Chemistry Award 2019 with the project “Double-targeted In Vivo Synthesis of Drugs at the Site of Disease”.

How did you get to bioorthogonal chemistry?
It was a big coincidence that I’ve had the chance to attend lectures of two of the most influential chemists in the field of click and bioorthogonal chemistry: Barry Sharpless and Carolyn Bertozzi. I was a young and unexperienced student back then and first did not really get the message from Barry Sharpless, but Carolyn Bertozzi’s talk completely blew my mind and, fortunately, years later I was lucky to be able to start independent research in this exciting field.

How was preparing your Dream Chemistry Award project different from your day-to-day research work? Do you feel you have benefited from it somehow?
The Dream Chemistry Award was an amazing experience and I am still grateful to the Scientific Committee for selecting my project. It gave me the chance to present and talk about a “dream project” with so many experts in their fields. Meeting all the researchers at IOCB, but especially also my “competitors” was a great experience.

How did you come up with your project on prodrug double-targeting and in vivo synthesis?
It’s something I have been thinking of for several years now, but until recently there was no feasible approach that I could think of to achieve this goal. The idea popped into my head at the same time when I was preparing my application for the Dream Chemistry Award. So, it may have been serendipity.

How important do you think is imagination and the ability to dream for a scientist?
Let me quote George Iles (1918): “A magician of old waved a wand that he might banish disease, a physician today peers through a microscope to detect the bacillus of that disease and plan its defeat. The belief in miracles was premature, that is all; it was based on dreams now coming true.”

You served, and volunteered afterwards, as a paramedic. How has this experience affected your research and its aims?
It definitely did have an impact on my research interests, which are more and more in the life sciences aiming for new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

There is a motto on the website of your group: “Chemists do crazy stuff and we try to be as crazy as possible...” This seems to fit the DCA as well…
This pops into my head each time when I am attending a lecture or reading a publication that makes me think “Wow”, and the Dream Chemistry Award event at IOCB again showed me that I am right with this motto. Chemists definitely do “crazy stuff” in so many different ways.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Yes! I’d like to say many thanks once again to all organizers, staff, colleagues and my competitors for such a great opportunity and experience!

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