Leading RNA biologist René Ketting joins Institute of Molecular Biology as Scientific Director

Molecular biologist will introduce C. elegans and zebrafish as model systems to study mechanisms controlling development and disease


The Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) appoints Professor René Ketting as its second Scientific Director. Ketting is a leading molecular biologist who will be focusing on the biology of non-coding RNAs. He will introduce C. elegans and the zebrafish as model systems at IMB to study mechanisms controlling development and disease.

For decades, RNAs have only been seen as intermediates in the production of proteins. However, the discovery of new classes of RNA which control the activity of genes has dramatically changed our view of these molecules. Professor René Ketting is one of the pioneers of this exciting, emerging area. His research focuses on so-called non-coding RNA (ncRNA), which he, with others, has shown to play a key role in embryonic development. Furthermore, errors in the control of gene activity by ncRNAs contribute to major diseases, such as cancer and heart failure.

Specifically, Ketting investigates three central aspects of ncRNA biology: how certain ncRNAs are able to silence the expression of specific genes, how ncRNAs regulate the activity of genes by triggering changes to chromatin, i.e., the way the DNA is packaged, and how they act to stop transposons, short pieces of DNA that can jump within the genome, from moving. The movement of transposons has a major impact on the stability of our genetic material. Understanding how ncRNAs prevent such movement therefore provides important insights into how our genomes are maintained in a healthy state.

IMB's Founding Director, Professor Christof Niehrs, is enthusiastic about Ketting joining IMB: "Professor René Ketting's research perfectly complements the work already carried out at IMB. His recruitment significantly bolsters IMB's expertise and international visibility in the field of RNA biology and will lead to many exciting collaborations." In addition to becoming a Director at IMB, Ketting has also been appointed as professor within the Faculty of Biology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "We are very glad to have succeeded in recruiting Professor René Ketting. His appointment brings an internationally renowned scientist to Mainz and further strengthens biological research at Mainz University," stated Professor Georg Krausch, President of Mainz University.

René Ketting is currently Professor of Epigenetics at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands. He has been an EMBO Young Investigator since 2007 and is holder of a prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant. Ketting will be taking up his appointment at IMB in September 2012.

"Professor René Ketting's appointment marks another important step in establishing IMB as an international beacon of research in the life sciences. We are very happy that IMB could attract a scientist of such caliber from abroad and are confident that the search for a further scientific director will be equally successful", said Otto Boehringer, Chairman of the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation.

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.