Institute of Medical Biochemistry
  History of the Institute of Medical Biochemistry  
 
 
 
     The history of the Institute goes back up to the year 1883, when the formerly united “Universitas Carolino-Ferdinandea” in Prague was divided into the Czech and German Universities (1882) and the Czech Faculty of Medicine was founded (1883). As the original Institute of Medical Chemistry it represents the first institution of its kind among the Czech universities.

     Its founder became MUDr. Jan Horbaczewski (1854-1942), a 29-year-old Ukrainian graduate of the University in Vienna and assistant of professor Ernst Ludwig at the same University. Although being very young , he earned scientific reputation by his paper on the preparation of uric acid by careful melting a mixture of glycine and urea, published in German on just 40 lines a year before. (It was the young author´s third publication.) This was regarded as a great achievement, as this synthesis was attempted without success by the famous Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1892), who synthesized urea in 1828 and was the first chemist demonstrating the possibility to produce in the laboratory organic substances found until that time only in living systems. With the interruption of the 6 war-years 1939-1945, when the Nazi administration imposed a ban on the Czech Universities, the Institute has been existing in its original location until the present time.

     Professor Horbaczewski and his disciples, promoted by himself to professors´ grades, became the founders of the teaching subject medical chemistry at all the Czech Faculties of Medicine. This was strengthened by the fact that Horbaczewski compiled the four-volume Czech textbook of medical chemistry (1904-1909) with its 1309 pages and its substantial part dealing with physiological chemistry, which was the original term for biochemistry at the former medical schools.Thus he may be regarded as a co-founder of Czech biochemistry. He was appointed four times as the Dean of the Czech Faculty of Medicine and once as the Rector of the Czech University in Prague and became also the first Minister of Health of the Austrian Government. Profesor Horbaczewski was active at the Faculty of Medicine until 1917, i.e. 34 years. His successor at the Institute of Medical Chemistry of Charles University in Prague was his disciple professor MUDr. Emanuel Formánek (1896-1929), who continued in the studies of nitrogen-containing substances in the organism and specialized also in food chemistry, pharmacognostics and toxicology. He served also as the acting Chairman of the Institute of Pharmacology and as the Dean of the Faculty, and held the Chairman´s post at his Institute until 1929. The last pre-war Chairman of the Institute during the years 1930-1939 was another disciple of Horbaczewski, professor MUDr. Antonín Hamsík, DrSc.(1878-1963), who was known for his research on digestive enzymes and haemoglobin derivatives. With his co-workers he wrote a five-volume Czech compendium of medical chemistry, based on the conception of Horbaczewski, which represented the subject between the two wars and shortly after the war. Professor Hamsík was also appointed as the Dean of the Faculty before the war and in the years 1945-1948 he was acting as the founder and first Chairman of the 2nd Institute of Medical Chemistry in Prague. The merits for the re-opening and reconstruction of the original Institute, which after 1945 became the 1st Institute of Medical Chemistry, belong to its Charman in the years 1945-1970, professor MUDr. Dr.Ing. Karel Kácl, DrSc., who established a department for chemical poisons at the Institute before the war and was promoted by professor Hamsík to professor´s grade. In 1953 he founded the Laboratory, which in 1956 was renamed as the Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Chemistry and until 1990 formed a part of a common chair with the 1st Institute of Medical and Forensic Chemistry. After the leave of professor Kácl from the Faculty, the Chairman of both Institutes during the most difficult years 1970-1984 became his successor, docent MUDr. RNDr. Břetislav Večerek, CSc. After his premature death the chairmanship during the years 1984-1990 was awarded to his disciple and successor professor MUDr. Stanislav Štípek, DrSc. (born 1941), the present Head of the Institute. In 1990 the common chair was divided into two separate institutions. The 1st Institute of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry was headed during the years 1990-1998 by professor MUDr. Jiří Kraml, DrSc. (born 1930), who was promoted earlier by professor Kácl. The Institute for Toxicology and Forensic Chemistry existed during the same period as an independent institution, but is now a part of the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of the Faculty.

     The research activities of the Institute, recently renamed Institute of Medical Biochemistry, have been focused during the last decades on selected enzyme systems, onco-foetal antigens and on the origin and action of free radicals in the organism. The Institute participates with the Institute of Biochemistry and Experimental Oncology (formerly 2nd Institute of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry) in the teaching of the subjects medical chemistry, biochemistry and pathobiochemistry in the first 3 years of the programmes medicine and stomatology in both the Czech and English-taught courses (the latter introduced in 1992). It participates also in the education of PhD students in the Specialist Board in Biochemistry and Pathobiochemistry as a part of the post-graduate programmes in biomedicine at Charles University in Prague.
 
 
 
  .:: created by Lukáš Mikšík, lukas@miksik.com :: edited by Jan Pláteník, jplat@lf1.cuni.cz