Martin Flegel (1946-2021), In Memoriam

Martin Flegel

Dr. Martin Flegel died suddenly on July 15, 2021, in the middle of the dinner with his family in his house in Dolni Jircany near Prague, Czech Republic.

Martin finished his studies at the Faculty of Science, Charles University in 1973. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (IOCB) where he worked in parallel to his university studies in the laboratory of Dr. Zaoral from 1968 to 1973 in the field of peptide synthesis. From 1973 to 1984 he worked in a company Leciva as a researcher at the Peptide Laboratory. The stay in Leciva is best described by his long-time friend Viktor Krchnak: “At the beginning of the 1980s, I joined Leciva Pharmaceuticals in Prague and spent several bright years working with Martin. At the time, Martin was the head of the peptide development group. Our very challenging task was to prepare for the commercial production of peptides on a solid phase. After several fine-tuning experiments, we designed a suitable 50-liter reaction vessel for several kilograms of resin. The resin suspension was stirred with a stream of nitrogen fed from the bottom of the reaction vessel. The first peptide production used Boc/Bn strategy. For Boc cleavage, we avoided TFA and used HCl gas, which was also used to stir the resin slurry in dichloromethane. These were great years of professional accomplishment; we have been successfully producing peptides on a large scale on the solid phase. Personally more essential was the long-term mutual friendships with Martin we built.”

In 1984 Martin completed a six-month internship at the Institute de Biochemie Université de Paris (center d´ Orsay). In the same year, he transferred to the Institute of Pharmacology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences as a researcher and worked there, again in the field of peptide synthesis until 1992, when he accepted a position in the company Ferring-Léčiva a.s, as aleader in the development of peptide drugs. In 1989 and 1991 he spent about 10 months in MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge UK, with legendary dr. Sheppard. In 1992 he joined the company PolyPeptide Laboratories (PPL) and in the years 1998-2007, he served there as general director and managing director. His employment with PPL ended at the end of 2007. Then he came back to his roots at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the ASCR, where he was employed until 2013. In parallel, he also worked part-time at the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University. In 2013, he became an employee of the University of Chemical Technology, Institute of Chemistry of Natural Substances, where, together his wife introduced a new specialization – synthesis and application of peptides. Even though I knew Martin since 1974 (we met every Friday at the weekly recap of peptide related projects at IOCB for more than 10 years), this was the first time when we worked together on peptide-related projects. And I can confirm that he had a passion for working in the peptide area and endless patience working with our students. They will miss him tremendously.

Martin was highly socially and professionally active, he was a member of the Czech Chemical Society since 1969. He was one of the founders of the European Peptide Society (EPS) and in 1994-2002 he was a National Representative of the Czech Republic at the EPS Council, in 1996-2002 he was also a member of the EPS executive. He was elected to the Academic Assembly of the Czech Republic for two terms (2002 – 2010). In the years 2006-2010, he was also a member of the Scientific Board of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry AS CR.

In 2004 he served as the chair of the 28th European Peptide Symposium in Prague. Martin loved meeting with colleagues during peptide symposia in Europe and the USA. His enthusiasm and cheerfulness on these occasions will be truly missed.

Martin was quite an accomplished painter and connoisseur of art and classical music. He was an enthusiastic follower of the art of Zdenek Mezl and he supported several art projects, such as glass sculpture installations of Vladimira Tesarova in a church in Domazlice.

Martin is survived by his wife Zuzana, daughters Hana and Vera, and grandchildren Sarka, Bela, Eliska, Zofie, and Jakub.

Contributed by Michal Lebl