Gerd Folkers studied pharmacy at the University of Bonn and attained a doctorate 1982 in pharmaceutical chemistry. After research stays in Berne, London and in the USA he finished his Habilitation in 1989 in Tübingen for the subject Pharmaceutical Chemistry focusing on Structure Based Design of virostatics, cancerostatics and immunotherapeutics. 1991 he has been appointed Professor for Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the ETH in Zurich. Gerd Folkers was founding member of the Centre for Pharmaceutical Sciences Basel-Zurich and led this until 2003. Emphasis of his research was the molecular design of bioactive compounds and their application for a personalized therapy of tumors and diseases of the immune system.
Gerd Folkers has been member of the research council of the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2003 to 2011.
Since 2004 he is head of the Collegium Helveticum, a joined project of ETH Zurich and University of Zurich for the study of new scientific perspectives in transdisciplinary processes. Since 2012, Gerd Folkers is a member of the Swiss Science and Technology Council.
Lecture as a Dialogue between Helmut Milz and Gerd Folkers
“The times they are a-changin” (B.Dylan). Global economy speeds up our times – act immediately, in realtime, turbo, non-stop, always available, fast food, power naps, speed dating, finally a drive through funeral. Accelerating speed changes the environments and spaces in which we move – in straight lines, on flat surfaces, with no hindrance or resistance, always direct access. More modern humans spend most of their live sitting, with long hours in front of screens, computerized, even flexible or portable “workstations”, with their eyes fixed in a constant distance, being engaged in restless, simultaneous multitasking.
Chronobiology research shows how our inborn, fine-tuned “rhythms” cooperate in (re)balancing the organism`s homeostasis. These processes act in an ordered, sequenced timing. They need their time, independent from our will. Do we still allow us enough time to balance our rhythms of rest and excess, of an accelerating and decelerating life, which may be our “last chance”? Biological “clocks” try to compensate and adapt, e.g. if sleep is deprived or to-do plans are too tight for too long. But adaptation goes in both directions. From ion flux in their neurons to reaction of the reflex circuit humans are slowed down by the factor of six magnitudes. Is this related to the fact that humans seem so slow?
Reaction time of adaptation may not be measured in physical terms. Human suffering requires its own time frame. Those who suffer are caught up in nagging thoughts and feelings of being “too late” and “too early”. Maybe there is never a right moment and nothing such like “a program”? Maybe they are just anthropocentric, even individual means and measures? Are human beings no longer adequate for the growing demands of global economic profits? Will a future “24/7”-society be willing to respect our biological “limitations”? Are we trying to banish biological time? Are we willing to cooperate with our given “human outfit”? Or should science provide us with the necessary prosthesis or drugs to speed up and sleep less in the future? What is un-acceptable for robots, maybe the evolutionary advantage for humans? Wait a minute? Do you have a moment to discuss these questions? Maybe we should look for a healthier detour, if we are too hurried?
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