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Prof. Dr. Martin Göttlicher

Director Institute of Molecular Toxicology and Pharmacology as a joint appointment with Technical University Munich to the chair of Toxicology and Environmental Hygiene

“Science and communication are driven by the question how selected chemicals have an impact on human physiology. Why could this be harmful on one side and how, on the other side, a safe basis to improve quality of life or to treat a disease?”

“Science and communication are driven by the question how selected chemicals have an impact on human physiology. Why could this be harmful on one side and how, on the other side, a safe basis to improve quality of life or to treat a disease?”

Academic Pathway and Research Area

The basic training in medicine lead to a doctoral thesis in toxicology addressing the question whether the Ah receptor for the Seveso poison “dioxin” could also be a target for aromatic amines. 

The postdoctoral fellowship at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (1991-1994) was dedicated to understanding the physiology of an at that time newly discovered members of the steroid receptor family. The key discovery was that fatty acids are not only “fuels” for the body but can also directly activate one of these receptors, the so-called PPARa, and thereby influence their own metabolism on the level of gene expression.

As a group leader at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe (today KIT) he, together with Thorsten Heinzel, discovered that the well-established anti-epileptic drug valproic acid interferes with a fundamental process of gene regulation and cellular control processes, i.e. the deacetylation of proteins such as histones of the cellular chromatin or of many other acetylated proteins. This observation provided on the one hand an explanation for the known teratogenic side-effect of valproate treatment during pregnancy and on the other hand inspired numerous trials to exploit histone deacetylase inhibition by valproic acid for the treatment of cancer.

2003 he joined Helmholtz Munich (at that time GSF) as director of the institute of toxicology. He expanded his own research focus on histone deacetylases towards new projects in the field of body weight and metabolic control. In addition, he took responsibility for positioning GSF in the funding lines of the Helmholtz centers as the spokesman of the environmental health program until 2013. Up to today he contributes to the continuous development of the early drug discovery project portfolio of Helmholtz Munich.

Fields of Work and Expertise

Molecular and cell biology technologies

Resolving and understanding modes of action of selected chemicals 

Interpretation and exploitation of molecular mechanisms in the physiological context of health and disease

   

Professional Career

Since 2003

Director of the Institute of Molecular Toxicology and Pharmacology as a joint appointment with Technical University Munich to the chair of Toxicology and Environmental Hygiene

1994-2002

“Habilitation fellowship” by the German Research Council (DFG)

1991-1994

Postdoctoral fellow at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Honors and Awards

  • German Cancer Award
    2006

  • “Habilitation fellowship” by the German Research Council (DFG)
    1994-1996

  • Long-term fellowship by the European molecular biology organization (EMBO)
    1991-1992

Patents

‘Valproic acid and derivatives thereof as histone deacetylase inhibitors’ 

Georg-Speyer-Haus Frankfurt (Employers’ invention disclosure Th. Heinzel, B. Groner), P. Herrlich und M. Göttlicher

PCT/EP01/07704; granted: EP1301184 B1

Networks, Partners and Affiliations

A long-standing contribution to the scientific community is the coordination of the post graduate training curriculum for young toxicologists in preparation for the “Fachtoxikolog*in GT” (German board certified toxicologist and European registered toxicologist) and chairing the continuous professional education commission of the German Society of Toxicology.