Karin Moelling on Retroviruses
  Karin Moelling     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Jun 2006

Well, the retroviruses are a very interesting twist to the thinking, because they, the flow of the genetic material is reversed. It’s not what everybody expected and the so called dogma, which nobody really put up as a dogma, but this is reversed, so these viruses take a very interesting detour to bring their genome into a safe surrounding and disguise it as a DNA. So that mechanism was very new and then the Nobel Prize was then given to Temin, Baltimore and Dulbecco because he did something, studies on DNA Tumor Viruses so that viruses having an intermediate S-DNA or just show up as DNA and these were Tumor Viruses in many cases. So the next step interesting for these viruses was not replication only, but was what do these viruses do to become cancer viruses? And that was the hot spot here at Cold Spring Harbor. How can we find out what genes cause cancer? Now the retroviruses give off a little genetic material and pull out of the cell some genetic new material, which they transform into cancer genes and they do this by fusion of these genes. And these cancer genes, there are about a hundred now known, they were just coming up in those days. So I got involved in oncogenes and in an EMBO course, maybe that’s interesting for this location.

Karin Moelling currently retired professor, still affiliated with the University of Zurich and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. She studied molecular biology at the University of Berkely, Califonia. She received her PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute for Virology at Tübingen in Germany. She did two post-doctoral research at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin (1973-1975), and at the Institute of Virology, University Giessen. In 1977 she received her Habilitation at the University of Giessen in Biophysics on "Replication of retroviruses".

From 1976 till 1981 she was the Head of Independent Research Group at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, on oncogenes, proto-oncogenes, cancer and HIV. In 1993 she became the Director of Institute of Medical Virology (IMV) and Full Professor at University of Zurich in Switzerland, she held this position till 2008. Between 2008-2009 she was Fellow of Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin and between 2008-2011 she became a Group Leader, Viruses and Cancer at University of Zurich.

Her research focus on retroviruses and cancer from molecular mechanisms to drug design. She is a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. She received several awards e.g. SwissAward in 2007, 4 prices: Czerny Price, Richtzenhain Price, Meyenburg Price and Ansman Price. She was Selected as Heisenberg Fellow in German Science Foundation.