DZHK Professorships

The DZHK Professors and heads of the DZHK Junior Research Groups during the 2019 DZHK Retreat in Potsdam (from left to right: Tommaso Gori, Eike Nagel, Jens Fielitz, Sabina Ulbricht, Marc-Phillip Hitz, Arne Hansen, Holger Gerhardt, Tanja Zeller, Nuno Camboa, Shirin Doroudgar, Lars Maegdefessel, George Kararigas, Christoph Knosalla. Not in the photo: Johannes Backs, Alexander Bartelt, Reinier Boon, Jeanette Erdmann, Michael Joner, Stefan Luther, Oliver Müller, Oliver Söhnlein, Martin Uecker, Stephan von Haehling)

Speakers of the DZHK Professors:

Tanja Zeller, Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck
Jens Fielitz (deputy), Greifswald
Eike Nagel (deputy), RheinMain

In April 2018, Sabina Ulbricht assumed the DZHK-W2 professorship for "Behavioral prevention of cardiovascular risk factors in the population" at the Greifswald University Hospital. The focus is on the development and evaluation of innovative interventions with the aim of improving the activity of the adult population. Together with her working group she should become acquainted with the methodological aspects of the activity and the effectiveness of the intervention, especially with regard to the development of modern communication technologies. The overall objective is to contribute to reducing behavioral cardiovascular risk factors, thus creating a potential high health-related benefit for the adult population.

In April 2018, Stephan von Haehling became DZHK W2-professor for Metabolic Cardiology at the Department of Cardiology and Pneumology of the University of Göttingen Medical Center. The focus of his work is heart failure, its metabolism and co-morbidities as well as on skeletal muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and cachexia. On the other hand, his work focuses on cardio-oncology. Together with his team of physicians, project assistants, postdocs, and MD and master students he aims to better characterize the pathophysiology of heart failure and its co-morbidities using imaging, function testing as well as biomarker assessments. The overall objective is to define novel treatment approaches for heart failure and to implement their use via innovative clinical trials.

In October 2017 Michael Joner assumed the position of DZHK Professor (W3) for "early clinical studies" at the German Heart Centre Munich of the Technische Universität München. The focus of the scientific activities is the translational evaluation of innovative research approaches of cardiovascular diseases with the main aim in providing early clinical studies. His work focuses on the exploration of innovative molecular imaging techniques. Therefore new approaches are tested in an animal model and subsequently in specially designed clinical studies. The constant connection of preclinical concepts and clinical observations by the use of modern microscopy and imaging techniques plays a decisive role. Another focus is the initiation of early clinical studies to investigate innovative concepts in the field of structural heart diseases.

In July 2017, Oliver Müller from the University of Heidelberg assumed the position of DZHK Professor for "Epigenetics in Cardiac Hypertrophy" at the Medical Faculty of the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel (DZHK partner site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck). He will investigate the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the development and progression of heart failure and cardiomyopathy. Further focus areas of his translational research activities are the development of efficient vectors for cardiovascular gene transfer as well as the identification and validation of new target structures for the treatment of acquired or genetic cardiomyopathies. The overall goal of his work is the development of new approaches to the treatment of previously insufficiently treatable cardiovascular diseases.



In April 2017, Jens Fielitz from the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC) – a cooperative venture of the Charité Medical Faculty Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association – and the Department of Cardiology at the Brandenburg Heart Center in Bernau assumed the position of DZHK Professor (W2) of Molecular Cardiology at the Greifswald site. His research addresses the molecular mechanisms of cardiac hypertrophy and their role in the transition to heart failure, focusing on the regulation of protein homeostasis in cardiomyocytes under stress. His group places a particular emphasis on examining the pathophysiology of inflammation-mediated cardiac and skeletal muscle damage in heart failure and critically ill patients. His goal is to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for heart failure patients.

Christoph Knosalla from the German Heart Institute Berlin (DHZB) was appointed DZHK Professor (W2) of Heart Failure Surgery at the Charité Medical Faculty Berlin in February 2017. His focus is on translational research in severe heart failure with the aim of advancing methods to preserve organs and support myocardial recovery. In recent years, he coordinated the establishment of the DZHK biobank at the DHZB. Furthermore, Prof. Knosalla was and still is closely involved in preparing and conducting the DZHK study “Early versus emergency left ventricular assist device implantation in patients awaiting cardiac transplantation (VAD)”. Several additional research projects are currently underway or in preparation at the DHZB and its partner organizations within the DZHK framework.   



Tommaso Gori was appointed DZHK-W3-Professor for “Myocardial and Vascular Interactions” at the University Medical Center Mainz, DZHK Standort Rhein-Main in September 2016. His research focuses on the field of interventional cardiology, invasive imaging, and endothelial function. The projects planned during his funding period include small mechanistic studies, outcome research, multicentric registries and clinical studies, and the participation in three large local cohort projects. 

Reinier Boon from the RheinMain partner site took up the position of DZHK Professor (W2) of RNA Therapeutics at the Institute of Cardiovascular Regeneration in March 2016. He will be experimentally examining the role of non-coding RNAs and their potential therapeutic applications. His research group will focus especially on analysing the role of non-coding RNAs in ageing of the cardiovascular system. The aim of this work is to develop new RNA-based therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. 

On 1 February 2016, Stefan Luther, Head of the Biomedical Physics Group (W2) - an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen - was appointed DZHK Bridge Professor of Imaging and Numerical Simulation at the DZHK partner site in Göttingen. His transitory research focuses on the development of new image-based measurement techniques and computer models of the heart. Using these methods, he investigates the mechanisms underlying the genesis and control of cardiac arrhythmias. The aim of his work is to develop new methods to terminate life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias conservatively and painlessly. 



Since November 2015, Georgios Kararigas holds the position of DZHK-W1-Professor of Translational Gender Research with the Focus on Heart Failure at the Institute of Gender in Medicine of Charite University Hospital in Berlin. His primary research interests include mechanisms of sex differences in cardiovascular (patho)physiology, hormonal effects in the heart, gene expression and regulation. In particular, he focuses on the analysis of heart-specific regulatory functions of oestrogen using a combination of computational and genome-wide methods, in vitro and in vivo models, in animals and human-derived material, and the effects of sex on these. His goal is the development of novel therapies for heart failure.

Starting in September 2015, Martin Uecker from the University of California, Berkeley (USA) took up the DZHK chair for real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the partner site Göttingen. His research activities lie in the area of new computer-based treatments in MRI, and range from the basic development of new MRI treatments, to the practical implementation and integration into commercial MRI systems, right through to the translation into clinical routine. Above all, he developed a new technique for real-time MRI, which is being further refined to a diagnostic tool, in particular for cardiovascular applications, and evaluated in clinical studies at the partner site Göttingen in close cooperation with Radiology, Cardiology, and the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.

On 1.1.2015, the Partner Site Rhine/Main has appointed Eike Nagel (previously King’s College London) as a DZHK-W3-Professor for Cardiovascular Imaging at the Goethe University Frankfurt. He will establish and lead a new Centre for Cardiocascular Imaging with MRI, CT, and PET/CT. Nagel focuses on the translation of new diagnostic tools into clinical routine particularly in the areas of coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure (HF-REF, HF-PEF). Research will be performed locally in close cooperation with cardiology, radiology, and nuclear medicine and rapidly transferred into multicenter studies.

Tanja Zeller from the partner site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck took up the position of DZHK Professor of Genomics and Systems Biology at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf on 1 October 2014. Her research focuses on identifying molecular biomarkers in the field of cardiovascular diseases. The research group led by Tanja Zeller combines molecular and cell biological as well as bioinformatics and statistical methods with genetic and clinical epidemiology to develop systems medicine approaches.

In September 2014 Holger Gerhardt (formerly of the Vascular Biology Laboratory, London Research Institute, UK) was appointed W3-Professor at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The chair is funded by the DZHK and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). Gerhardt’s main research topics are the density and branching pattern of blood vessels and how they adapt to metabolic processes which – when misdirected – have an impact on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Since 2013, Oliver Söhnlein (formerly of the Institute of Pathology at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam) holds the position of W2-Professor of Immunology of Vascular Diseases at the Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. He will be conducting experimental studies on current concepts of immune signalling, immunomodulatory mechanisms and mediators in vascular diseases with a focus on arteriosclerosis and plaque stabilisation.

The partner site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck appointed Arne Hansen (formerly Hamburg) to the position of DZHK-W1-Professor of Heart Tissue Engineering in 2012. Hansen has experience with human pluripotent stem cells. He is actively involved in developing artificial heart tissue for use as a model for heart disease, preclinical drug testing and the repair of diseased heart tissue. The objectives of this research are among the most important translational research goals of the DZHK. Plans are underway to upgrade this position to a W2-professorship in the course of the coming funding period.

At the partner site Heidelberg/Mannheim Johannes Backs (formerly Heidelberg) has been DZHK-W3-Professor of Cardiac Epigenetics since 2012. Backs’ research concentrates on heart-genome-environment interactions with the aim of understanding the regulatory epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to the progression and phenotypic variability of diseases of the heart muscle. His goal is to translate basic findings into new epigenetic treatments and diagnostic tests. The research group led by Backs will be housed in the new DZHK research building in Heidelberg.

The partner site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck appointed Jeanette Erdmann (formerly Lübeck) to the post of DZHK-W3-Professor of Integrative and Experimental Genomics at the University of Lübeck in 2012. Erdmann’s research objective is to come to a better understanding of the genetic factors that lead to cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Her research combines bioinformatics with epidemiological, clinical and experimental data with the aim of clarifying the functional basis of known genes and identifying new ways to establish how diseases occur. This knowledge is to be translated into new treatments.