Karin Moelling on Raf Kinase
  Karin Moelling     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Jun 2006

So, pulling out oncogenes out of various retrovirus infected cells, we found this Raf kinase, which has turned out to be one of the major signal transduction molecules in almost every organism and it’s an enzyme which is in a signal transduction pathway. It’s extremely highly conserved through all of the species and finally now also one can find it in human cancers. We studied that enzyme from a mechanistic point of view, the interaction partners, but also how does this enzyme, for instance, decide whether the cell goes into differentiation or proliferation, because a very important question is how do our cells know which way to go. Do I want to be a replicating cell, in the worst case, a tumor cell, or do I want to be a differentiated cell, which normally does not proliferate that much, so this cross-talk, or this no, no, I shouldn’t call it a cross-talk. This way of decision-making we found out is due to a cross-talk of two signal transduction pathways and we published it in Science a couple of years ago, two science papers next to each other, which was a very interesting, difficult. The papers are difficult to read, but in one case the Raf kinase wins and decides which way to go in another case the Raf kinase loses and the outcome is in both cases the same. That was a big surprise to everybody so the cross-talk between different signal transduction pathways is finally deciding on whether a cell will grow, proliferate, or will become a tumor cell; that’s one side and on the other hand, stop growing and become a differentiated specialist cell so that’s been of interest to me for the past couple of years.

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.