With September 1, 2016 cardiologist and medical geneticist Prof. Michael Gotthardt of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) has been appointed W3 Professor for “Experimental and Translational Cardiology” at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in cooperation with the MDC. Previously, the MDC group leader held a W2 professorship.
Michael Gotthardt’s current research is focused on improving the life of patients with heart disease that relates to altered biomechanics and impaired filling of the cardiac ventricle. No causal therapy exists, although it affects an increasing number of patients – specifically females and the elderly. A major contributor to the mechanical properties of the heart is the giant protein titin which his lab would like to exploit as a therapeutic target.
Major scientific contributions of the Gotthardt lab are the detection of the first splice factor of titin with relevance to human disease and the development of animal models to study titin biomechanics and cardiac splicing. Michael Gotthardt received the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, and an Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).
From MD to MDC
Michael Gotthardt has spent most of his scientific life at the MDC starting as a young MD student in 1992 with Prof. Michael Strauss working on Gene Therapy – “because that seemed like a great way to make a change for patients with devastating disease.”
During part of his thesis project and his postdoc at the department of Molecular Genetics at the UT Southwestern Medical Center of the University of Texas at Dallas, he studied multifunctional receptors of the LDL-receptor gene family and started his work on understanding the giant protein titin using a combination of mouse genetics and biomechanics.
In 2001 he received NIH funding to start his lab at Washington State University and in 2002 a return grant by the German government to establish his junior group at the MDC focusing on neuromuscular and cardiovascular cell biology.
Currently he is affiliated with the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Tucson in Arizona and the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease program at the MDC.
In addition to his translational research, Michael Gotthardt is deeply involved in the training of students both at Charité and on campus. As a speaker of the TransCard Helmholtz Research School he shares his strong interest to increase the translational aspect of cardiovascular research at the MDC.
The Max Delbrück Center
The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association was founded in January 1992 on the recommendation of the German Council of Science and Humanities (“Wissenschaftsrat”) with the goal of linking basic science to clinical research. The MDC integrated parts of three former Central Institutes of the GDR Academy of Sciences and was named for Max Delbrück, a physicist, biologist, and Nobel Prize winner. Currently the institute employs more than 1600 people from nearly 60 countries; over 1300 of those are directly involved in research. The MDC’s annual budget is over 80 million Euros, along with substantial third-party funding obtained by individual scientific groups. As is the case with all Helmholtz institutes, the MDC receives 90 percent of its funding from the federal government and 10 percent from Berlin, the state where it resides.