Dr. Leo Kurian starts junior professorship for regulation of cellular identity in embryonic development, homeostasis, and disease

01.02.2023 | TopNews Dr. Leo Kurian

Dr. Leo Kurian will start his W1 professorship in Regulation of Cellular Identity in Embryonic Development, Homeostasis and in the Event of Disease on Feb. 1, 2023, without tenure track. The newly created professorship at the Medical Faculty of the University of Cologne is located at the Institute of Neurophysiology.

The scientist, who was born in India on May 11, 1981, has already been working since April 2014 as an independent junior group leader at the Institute of Neurophysiology and the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (ZMMK), where his research group is located. Kurian's Laboratory for Developmental and Regenerative RNA Biology was funded by the NRW Stem Cell Network through start-up funding from 2014 to 2019.

The ZMMK is an interdisciplinary research facility at the Biomedical Campus of the University of Cologne dedicated to the study of molecular and cellular mechanisms of human diseases. There, Leo Kurian studies the regulatory principles that govern cell fate and cell identity during human heart development, homeostasis (the balance of physiological body functions), and the pathomechanisms of heart disease. "I sincerely thank all the members of my research group and the team at the Center for Molecular Medicine," Leo Kurian said at the start of his professorship, "for making this path possible."

Current understanding of the molecular regulation of cell fate and identity is mainly based on signal transduction, epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms. However, RNA is the primary communication language of the genome: it is regulated in different ways at each stage of its life cycle. Leo Kurian and his research group aim to develop an understanding of RNA regulatory principles, as this DNA-encoded information determines cell fate decisions and cellular identity. In parallel with studying basic RNA-centric processes, Kurian and his team are looking at how the breakdown of RNA regulatory processes affects homeostasis and leads to congenital and age-related heart disease. Here, Kurian's group is working to develop safe RNA therapeutics by harnessing the processes of human RNA processing.

Last year, Leo Kurian was awarded a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his pioneering research approach. He will receive up to 1.98 million euros in research funding over five years. The Consolidator Grant, which Kurian received for his TRANSCEND research project, will be used to re-evaluate current scientific understanding of the regulation of mRNA translation. The long-term goal is to gain a systemic understanding of the RNA regulatory principles that govern tissue and organ self-assembly and homeostasis in humans in order to develop therapeutic solutions for tissue and organ regeneration.

Leo Kurian received his PhD in Genetics (Dr. rer. nat.) from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences/Institute of Genetics at the University of Cologne in 2009. He completed his Master of Science in Biotechnology at the University of Madras, Chennai, India, in 2003. He held a CIRM Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, USA, from 2009 to 2013. At the University of San Diego (UCSD), Leo Kurian worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Molecular Medicine from 2013 to 2014 before returning to the University of Cologne in 2014.



Univ. Prof. Dr. Leo Kurian

Institute for Neurophysiology

Phone: +49 221 478 89692

Mail: leo.kurian@uk-koeln.de