Karin Moelling on Scientific Research
  Karin Moelling     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Jun 2006

Oh, the main things in science which I thought I made, I was pretty young when I made them so, uh, the very important experiment I performed was when I tried to find out how viruses replicate, retroviruses. I went to the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen and how do retroviruses replicate and I was looking for the wrong enzyme. I looked for an R dependent RNA polymerase and I couldn’t get anything out and one day from a Godden Conference coming back, [unintelligible], then Director of that institute, he said there’s a person by the name Temin and he found an RNA dependent DNA polymerase. Oh okay, I ran up and asked [unintelligible] and Yani Nuslanch[?], he was a PhD student next door and I said, ‘I want to do DNA synthesis, not RNA synthesis, do you have the building blocks?’ Sure, they gave me the building blocks and it took a day, actually, to repaint the discovery of the RNA dependent DNA polymerase, once you know what you are looking for. So I did the wrong thing beforehand. And then, interestingly enough, there was a group in Tübingen studying Ribonuclease H, which cleaves RNA and RNA-DNA hybrids, they didn’t know what it was for. They looked in a very strange organism and I thought maybe that’s a good enzyme for replication of retroviruses to get rid of their RNA. So I set up that experiment and sure enough we found what is called the Ribonuclease H and that was in my thesis. That discovery had many fathers, I was told later on that that happens normally when you find something good. So, then I came to Cold Spring Harbor with this information and Adam Levine was running an RNA Tumor Virus course and he said ‘Karin, I heard of your story, please tell us.’ And I had never given a talk, so I did, and that was the first time I came to Cold Spring Harbor

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.