Katia Karalis Receives Helmholtz International Fellow Award

As one of five scientists, Dr. Katia Karalis received the Helmholtz International Fellow Award 2017. The award is endowed with 20,000 euros and includes an invitation for flexible research stays at Helmholtz centers. Helmholtz Zentrum München had nominated Karalis who is an expert in the novel field of human organ-on-chips technologies.

Dr. Katia Karalis

Dr. Katia Karalis © Emulate Inc. (modifiziert)

Organs-on-chips, offer researchers the opportunity to simulate physiological tissue functions in the laboratory by creating in vivo relevant systems based on primary human cells. Use of normal and diseased cells allows for precise, fast and clinically relevant testing of hypotheses on pathogenesis as well as efficacy and toxicity of therapeutics. Most importantly, this technology enables scientists to specifically set and control the microenvironment conditions, such as shear stress, mechanical forces and extracellular matrix. This is of great importance for disease modeling, biomarker identification and drug discovery. Helmholtz Zentrum München is also applying this technology progressively, for example within the new Helmholtz Pioneer Campus. Granting the Helmholtz International Fellow Award shall further nurture the collaboration with Dr. Katia Karalis, one of the world-leading experts in this field. “I would like to thank the Helmholtz selection  committee for this great honor that provides a unique opportunity to work together and apply our proprietary technologies in finding translatable answers for human diseases”, Karalis says.

“Catalyst for critical technological advancements”

The recommendation to nominate Karalis for a Helmholtz International Fellow Award came from the new directors of the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, Professor Matthias Tschöp (Director of Biomedicine) and Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos (Director of Bioengineering). Both of them hope to intensify through the award the existing cooperation. "This award may serve as a catalyst for critical technological advancements," said Tschöp, looking ahead.

Katia Karalis is the Executive Vice President for Research at Emulate Inc, a spin off from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, she has long-standing interest in the fields of metabolism and inflammatory processes as they relate to tissue regeneration and maintenance of systemic homeostasis. Consequently, there are numerous connecting factors with Helmholtz Zentrum München, where researchers are seeking to elucidate the causes of diabetes and obesity and develop novel therapies for more efficient treatments.

“I first met Dr. Karalis during my time at Harvard, and we have been in contact and collaborating ever since,” said Ntziachristos. “I am always impressed by her tremendous energy, intellect, and motivation as well as her extraordinary networking ability. I can think of no one more suitable for this award than her.”

Katia Karalis earned an MD degree and a PhD in Experimental Surgery from the University of Athens. Afterwards, she moved to the U.S. and worked in the fields of endocrinology and genetics at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (Maryland), the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts). She has been at the faculty of Harvard Medical School since 1995 and is affiliated with the Department of Medicine, Endocrine Division, of BCH. In addition, in 2004 she joined the faculty of the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA), a newly founded Institute, to set up the Developmental Biology Section. In this capacity she led the efforts of a multidisciplinary group to establish a translational research center for studying neurodegeneration and obesity funded by EU.

Moreover, Dr. Karalis  acts as reviewer for well-known peer-reviewed journals such as Molecular Psychiatry, the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Nature Medicine, Gastroenterology, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the Journal of Immunology and the Journal of Clinical Investigation,  to list a few, as well as a grant reviewer and evaluator for different organizations in Europe and USA. Numerous awards and grants further underline her professional achievements.

Further Information

Karalis is one of five awardees chosen from 23 nominated scientists. The Helmholtz International Fellow Award was first granted in 2012. Since then, the award has been presented each year to a total of ten scientists in two selection rounds. The prize is funded from the Helmholtz president's Initiative and Networking Fund. The Helmholtz centers nominate the candidates, and the Helmholtz President’s Council selects the award winners.

The unique approach of Emulate is based in the combination of biology, engineering and design to develop new human microphysiological systems, one of the most promising new technologies according to a number of analyses and reports.

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,500 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members.