Karin Moelling

Karin Moelling

Prof em and Director em of Institute of medical Virology, University of Zürich; Senior Research Guest at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin. Guest Prof. at Heinrich Pette-Institute for Virology, Hamburg

Karin Moelling has studied retroviruses and oncogenes, first as research fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute, Berlin, then as Prof and Director at the Institute of Medical Virology, Zürich. She discovered the retroviral RNase H, required for viral replication, and the oncoprotein Mil/Raf Kinase, which became recently an important target for anticancer therapy. She described the striking dual role of Raf either as driver of growth or growth arrest (differentiation). Also the nuclear role and DNA binding of the oncoprotein Myc was detected by KM. She characterized the replication of HIV and developed a suicide mechanism to destroy the virus. KM suggests a scenario for early evolution with viruses as our oldest ancestors and demonstrated the similarities between viruses and antiviral defense. 

Profile continued

Karin Moelling is currently a retired professor, still affiliated with the University of Zürich and the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Genetics, Berlin, and the Heinrich–Pette Institute for Experimental Virology, Hamburg.

K Moelling was trained as nuclear physicist with emphasis on elementary particles in astrophysics. She turned to molecular biology during a fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, supported by an elite scholarship of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes. She received her PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute for Virology at Tübingen. She did two research postdocs at the Robert-Koch-Institute, Berlin (1973-1975), and at the Institute of Virology, University of Giessen. In 1977 she received her Habilitation at the University of Giessen in Biophysics on “Replication of Retroviruses” with emphasis on the RNase H.

From 1976 till 1981 she was the Head of an Independent Research Group at the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, on oncogenes, protooncogenes, cancer and HIV with support, among others, by a Core Grant of the M Scheel-Foundation on Cancer. After being a Heisenberg Fellow and permanent Senior Researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, she became the Director of the Institute of Medical Virology (IMV) and Full Professor of the Medical Faculty at the University of Zürich in Switzerland in 1993. She held this position till the regular retirement in 2008. Between 2008 and 2009 she was Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at Berllin, and  from 2008 till 2011 a Group Leader on Viruses and Cancer at the University of Zurich. During 2011 she was at the Institute of Advaced Study in Princeton, USA.

Her research focuses on retroviruses and cancer from molecular mechanisms to target identification and drug design. She is co-founder of several Biotech Co. in Germany and the USA. She is a selected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. She received several awards e.g Swiss Award in 2007, and four prices: Czerny Price, Richtzenhain Price, Meyenburg Price and Ansman Price. She was selected member of the Biotechnology Council of Chancellor H. Kohl and Innovation Fond of the City of Berlin, and for many years Head of the Schrödinger Award Committee on Interdisciplinary Research of the Helmholtz Gemeinschaft. She was selected as Heisenberg Fellow of the German Science Foundation. She published over 230 scientific papers, several journalistic articles and two books.  

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"What I believe but cannot prove: Viruses are our oldest ancestors. Viruses (such as viroids) were first and helped to develop ribosomes as ribozymes, which lead to the Reverse Transcriptase and DNA and helped to build cells and all immune systems. Viruses invented superinfection exclusion as the basis of all antiviral defense systems. The nucleases, molecular scissors, used are members of the RNase H family, one of the oldest most abundant protein folds, a tool of retroviruses for replication. "

(Moelling Karin: Are viruses our oldest ancestors? (EMBO Rep.2012; 13:1033))

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