Faculty of Natural
Sciences
Comenius University in Bratislava

FROM THE HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOCHEMISTRY

Recognition of biochemistry as the scientific field at the Faculty of Natural Sciences dates back to the early 1950s, when the Biochemistry Department was established at the Institute of Chemistry. It later transformed to the Institute of Biochemistry led by external chairman Jozef Tamchyna from the Institute of Chemistry of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Upon administrative re-organization of the faculty in 1955, the Institute of Biochemistry became the Division of Biochemistry under the Department of Organic, Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry, from which the Department of Biochemistry was constituted in 1966. The first head of the department became Ladislav Kováč. The research at the department of that period mainly focused on energy metabolism of Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae as model organisms. This resulted in development of an internationally recognized scientific school of bioenergetics headed by Ladislav Kováč. During repressions following the “Prague Spring”, Ladislav Kováč was dismissed from the position of the head of the department in 1970, and was forced to leave the Faculty of Natural Sciences a year later, along with many of his collaborators. In the same year, the department became a part of the Department of Organic Chemistry.

            The Department of Biochemistry was re-established in 1974. The external chairman Ján Zelinka from the Institute of Molecular Biology of Slovak Academy of Sciences introduced new research program focused on the industrial antibiotics-producers Penicilium chrysogenum and bacteria of the genus Streptomyces. In 1978, an ambitious Biochemistry graduate Ján Turňa joined his home department and started to develop molecular biology and modern techniques of recombinant DNA. In fact, the Department of Biochemistry became the first workplace in Slovakia to use the recombinant DNA technologies as early as in the beginning of the eighties. At that time the department was led by Július Kozák (since 1981), who was succeeded by Marta Kollárová in 1987.

            After the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989, the researchers who had to leave in the seventies were invited to re-join the Faculty of Natural Sciences. Among them the members of the bioenergetics team - Ladislav Kováč, Štefan Kužela and Jordan Kolarov returned to the Department of Biochemistry as full-time employees and Miloslav Greksák and Peter Šmigáň as external teachers. In 1990, Ladislav Kováč was re-appointed as the head of the department and started to build on the bioenergetics tradition of the department with former and new young colleagues (Jozef Nosek, Ľubomír Tomáška). Ján Turňa and his research team who carried out molecular biology branch of research at the Department of Biochemistry moved to the newly established Department of Molecular Biology after re-organization of the faculty in the early nineties. In 1991, Jordan Kolarov became the head of the Department of Biochemistry, followed by Marta Kollárová in 1998 and Katarína Mikušová in 2012. Throughout these years, several research teams established at the department, which extended the research subjects at the department to the present scope.

 

Source: adapted from a text published on the occasion of 70th anniversary of the Faculty of Natural Sciences