Since 1998 the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ) acknowledges each year outstanding cell biological research with a focus on cell culture or the use of cell cultures with the BINDER Innovation Prize founded by the BINDER GmbH in Tuttlingen, DE. This year the prize is awarded to Leo Kurian for discoveries on the RNA-centric regulatory principles that program cell fate and identity.
"I am humbled and honored to receive the 2021 Binder Innovation prize from the German Society for Cell Biology. The credit goes not to me but to my brilliant lab members. We thank our generous collaborators, funding bodies, and host institutes CMMC, CECAD, and Institute for Neurophysiology for their constant support. I promise to work harder and provide an inclusive, open environment focused on innovative science,” said Kurian.
About Kurian's Research:
RNA is the universal, primary language of communication from the genome and the source for the regulatory information that controls living systems. However, we are only beginning to understand the fundamental principles by which RNA regulatory elements operate, from how do long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) function to how the mammalian ribosome acts as a regulatory nexus by customizing translation of the genetic code in space and time.
Leo Kurian and his research team are focused on deciphering the RNA-centric fundamental principles controlling the foundation of cell fate and identity during embryonic development and homeostasis. Previously, to study the regulation of cell fate decisions, he developed ex vivo models recapitulating developmental fate decisions using human pluripotent stem cells.
They discovered that terminal cellular identity can be reprogrammed by transient short-term induction of pluripotency factors followed by instructive morphogen signaling. Using these models, they uncovered a host of RNA regulatory elements and drew the fundamental discoveries on how divergently transcribed lncRNAs control cell fate and identity by controlling the local epigenome.
Their work on organ homeostasis and aging revealed the role of metabolic intermediates in organ-specific aging. Building on these studies, currently, the Kurian lab is focused on studying the principles by which the developmental transcriptome is differentially translated in time and space to program cell-fate decisions.
Their long-term goal is to gain a systems-level understanding of the RNA-codes that encrypt cellular identity and homeostasis in humans. Considering the central role of RNA regulatory elements in congenital and adult-onset diseases, they aspire to develop innovative therapeutic strategies to rewire RNA regulatory elements to induce regenerative repair and alleviate age-associated diseases.
Leo Kurian studied the mechanisms controlling fidelity of translation and ribosomal frameshifting, earning his Ph.D. degree in 2009 at the Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne. For his postdoctoral work, he moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego, California, followed by the University of California San Diego (UCSD). In 2014, he returned to the University of Cologne, where he established his independent group at the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. rer. nat. Leo Kurian
The BINDER Innovation Prize is by BINDER GmbH in Tuttlingen and since 1998 annually awarded by the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ). The award is given for outstanding contributions to cell biology and consists of a financial contribution of EUR 4000. It is aimed at junior investigators that have already established and developed their own research profile.