Holger Richly joins Institute of Molecular Biology to study stem cell differentiation and ageing

New research group to investigate the interplay between various epigenetic factors and to identify new components that interpret the epigenetic landscape and drive cells into differentiation


Differentiation of embryonic stem cells gives rise to over 200 types of specialized cell, all of which perform specific and well-defined functions within our body. For an embryo to develop properly, cellular differentiation needs to be well orchestrated with the right cells differentiating in the right places and at the right times. This is achieved through specific genes which determine the fate of cells during embryonic development. Epigentic factors are crucial for the regulation of these genes. For instance, the modification of chromatin by various biochemical marks controls whether a gene is silenced or actively expressed. Dr. Holger Richly and his team at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) will study the interplay between various epigenetic factors and identify new components that interpret the epigenetic landscape and drive cells into differentiation. A deeper understanding of these processes and the underlying epigenetic mechanisms will ultimately be important for the success of regenerative medicine and new cancer treatments.

Another focus of Dr. Holger Richly's work is ageing research. Ageing is accompanied by phenotypic changes that reflect altered gene expression states within an organism. Richly's team investigates how epigenetic regulation alters gene expression patterns during the course of ageing. To conduct this research his laboratory utilizes the nematode C. elegans, a classical animal for ageing research in which many cellular pathways are known to impact on longevity. Using this model organism, Richly's research aims to discover the epigenetic components that directly determine an animal's lifespan and to elucidate the role of both well-known and novel epigenetic marks during ageing. These findings will deliver new insights into the molecular mechanisms of the ageing process and open new avenues for therapeutic intervention in age-related diseases.

Prior to joining IMB, Dr. Holger Richly has investigated the epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and more recently at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona in Spain.

About the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

The Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB) is a center of excellence in the life sciences that was established in 2011 on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Research at IMB concentrates on three cutting-edge areas: epigenetics, developmental biology, and genome stability. The institute is a prime example of a successful collaboration between public authorities and a private foundation. The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has dedicated EUR 100 million for a period of ten years to cover the operating costs for research at IMB, while the state of Rhineland-Palatinate provided approximately EUR 50 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art building.

About the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931-1991), a member of the shareholder family of the company Boehringer Ingelheim. With the PLUS 3 Perspectives Program and the Exploration Grants, the foundation supports independent group leaders. It also endows the internationally renowned Heinrich Wieland Prize as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists. In addition, the foundation pledged to donate EUR 100 million to finance the scientific running of the IMB at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz for ten years. In 2013, the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation donated a further EUR 50 million to Mainz University.