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Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky from New York University appointed to the MDC and the Charité in Berlin - Successor of Professor Jens Reich

Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky, an expert in bioinformatics at New York University, New York, USA, has been appointed to the MDC and the Charité - Medical School in Berlin, Germany. He is the successor of Professor Jens Reich, research group leader at the MDC in bioinformatics and eminent figure as a former human rights activist in the GDR.

Professor Rajewsky, currently Professor for biology and mathematics at the “Center for Comparative Functional Genomics” at New York University, will move to Berlin this summer. He will work in the Laboratory for Medical Genomics, a new building which the MDC and the Leibniz-Institute for Molecular Pharmacology jointly erected on the Berlin-Buch Campus in the Northeast of Berlin, where both institutions are located. “We are very proud to have succeeded in getting Nikolaus Rajewsky, one of the leading experts in bioinformatics, to Berlin-Buch”, MDC’s Scientific Director Professor Walter Birchmeier said. “His appointment will enable the MDC to further strengthen its bioinformatics program and intensify our collaborations with other researchers”.

Nikolaus Rajewsky (Photographer: private)

Professor Rajewsky`s research focuses on the questions of when, where, and how genes are regulated and also on the translation into gene products, i.e. proteins – the building blocks of life. He is especially interested in microRNAs (miRNAs), very small RNA molecules, which bind to the messenger RNA, thus regulating the production of proteins. Recently, it has been demonstrated that genomes of organisms such as humans, fruit flies, and worms encode hundreds of these miRNAs. Recent work by Professor Rajewsky and others show that miRNA play an important role in vital processes in humans such as in the secretion of insulin and in the biosynthesis of cholesterol. In Professor Rajewsky’s view, identifying the exact binding sites of the miRNAs on the messenger RNA is important towards understanding human diseases and gene regulation in general. He has developed a new computational high-troughput method that can identify the targets of miRNA.

“In the next decade, we expect an exponentially growing number of genomes to be sequenced thanks to the recent breakthroughs in whole genome sequencing technology” Professor Rajewsky stated. “It is for this reason that bioinformatics and comparative genomics will play an increasingly important role in decoding and predicting how gene regulatory networks are ‘wired’. However, computer-generated data must be validated in animal experiments”, he stressed. “Not only do these experiments help to understand specific biological problems but also to validate bioinformatic methods”. Therefore, Professor Rajewsky’s research group on “Systems Biology” at the MDC will use both computational methods as well as animal experiments to better understand gene regulatory networks on a system-wide level.

Nikolaus Rajewsky studied mathematics and physics at the University of Cologne, Germany from 1988-1993, where he earned his PhD in theoretical physics in 1997. In the Fall of 1998, he went to the USA as a post-doctoral fellow, first at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and, from 1999 - 2002, at Rockfeller University in New York, where he later became Research Assistant Professor and, in 2003, Assistant Professor at New York University. He also received a Masters degree in music (piano) at the Folkwanghochschule Essen (Germany) from 1991 - 1996.

Founded in 1992, the MDC is a biomedical research institution which has developed an innovative concept that enables the investigation of various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological disorders under the umbrella of molecular medicine. The researchers at the MDC apply molecular biology and genetic engineering to study genes, their products (proteins), and their role in the onset of such complex diseases. In bringing basic and clinical research together, MDC scientists collaborate closely with clinicians of two nearby research clinics of the Charité University Medicine in the Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch. The MDC, with a staff of 750, is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres. It obtains 90 percent of its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, with the remaining ten percent coming from state (Land) of Berlin.

Barbara Bachtler
Press and Public Affairs
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10
13125 Berlin
Phone.: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax:  +49 (0) 30
94 06 - 38 33

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