Published: 30-03-2015 12:34 | Updated: 30-03-2015 12:39

He combines the best of two worlds

Since the first of March a new professor has started working at the department of Medicine. Ralph Knöll, Adjunct Professor of Myocardial Genetics, has high hopes of his new working place ICMC, Integrated Cardio Metabolic Centre.

Ralph Knöll was professor and chair of Myocardial Genetics at Imperial College in London for five years when he was contacted by AstraZeneca last year.

- I received an excellent offer with this position at ICMC, so I accepted, Ralph Knöll says.

- The position as both professor at KI and chief scientist at AstraZeneca attracts me because I get to translate basic science into clinical science. ICMC combines the strengths of two worlds: academy and industry.

Ralph Knöll has just come back to his new office at ICMC from a trip to the U.S, where he attended a fondation Leducq meeting, where he is a member of a “Transatlantic Network of Excellence”.

- I enjoyed the meeting, many interesting research projects were discussed, Ralph says and mentions the evaluation of so-called mechano-sensitive types of cell death (apoptosis or “mechanoptosis”).

Focus on epigenetics

Ralph Knöll´s research interest is the genetic basis of human heart failure and the underlying molecular mechanisms.

- I´ve always been interested in finding the roots and causes of something. As a little boy I had plants in a bucket just to be able to study how they could grow there, says Ralph, who eventually chose to become a doctor.

He did his clinical training at the University Hospital Benjamin Franklin in Berlin (Free University of Berlin, Charité) and started focusing on cardiology as a PhD student at the Department of Experimental Cardiology, Max-Planck-Institute of Physiological and Clinical Research.

Today the focus of Ralph Knöll´s own research group at ICMC is epigenetics – the study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence.

- We use a new genome editing technology called CRISPR to avoid heart failure in mice. This technology allows scientists and clinicians to make changes in the genome at very precise locations. We wish to introduce new therapeutic approaches when it comes to heart failure, Ralph explains.

His driving force as a researcher is, as he puts it, “to come up with something good for mankind”.

- I think I can do great work in this environment together with my colleagues. I have excellent impressions of ICMC so far, Ralph Knöll says.

About Ralph Knöll

Position: Adjunct Professor at ICMC
Family: Wife and son
Background: born in the small village of Bellings, near Steinau, Germany. Ralph did clinical training at the University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Free University Berlin (Charité). He received his doctoral degree at the Max-Planck-Institute of Physiological and Clinical Research, and was educated at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Medical School, Frankfurt and Justus Liebig University Medical School, Giessen. He was a postgraduate researcher at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, UC San Diego (where he worked together with Professor Ken Chien, also at ICMC now) and became professor at the Georg August University, Göttingen. Before Ralph was recruited to ICMC he was professor and chair at the Imperial College, London. Among others, he is recepient of the prestigious Theodor Frerichs Award of the German Society of Internal Medicine.
Hobbies: reading and long walks in the wilderness or on the beach (in addition he is keen learning sailing…).
Book on my bedside table: “Wolf Hall” (about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn) by Hilary Mantel.