Welcoming a new Centre Director to UK DRI at King’s College London

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It is a pleasure to announce that our new Centre Director for UK DRI at King’s is Prof Jernej Ule, an expert in RNA biology and its role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Prof Jernej Ule (pronounced “Yernay Yulay”) will lead the UK DRI at King’s from April 2022, in addition to taking up the position of van Geest Professor of Neurodegeneration Research. His responsibilities include providing scientific leadership within the UK DRI community, developing collaborative opportunities at King’s as well as across the wider neurodegeneration community and industry, and contributing to the growth and success of the Institute.

On the announcement, Prof Jernej Ule, said:

“I’m thrilled to join the UK DRI, an institute which offers a unique multi-centre environment bringing together so many bright minds from diverse fields. This is the best way to make progress in understanding and treating dementia. My vision for the UK DRI Centre at King’s is to enhance its interdisciplinary approaches, and capacity to take molecular insights towards the clinic through innovative gene therapy technologies."

My approach has always been to establish a level-playing field, where everyone contributes to decisions, which are made through regular and open communication. Prof Jernej Ule, Centre Director at UK DRI at King's

Joining the UK DRI from a Group Leader position at the Francis Crick Institute, Prof Ule has over 20 years of experience in research, and established his first research group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in 2006. In addition to his lab at the Crick, which will gradually relocate to UK DRI at King’s, Prof Ule also leads a satellite research team at the Institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana, funded by the European Research Council.

Prof Ule’s research is focused on a versatile molecule called ribonucleic acid (RNA), which has many roles in cells. For instance, messenger RNA carries the instructions to produce new proteins. RNA also interacts with proteins to form large complexes, and evidence suggests that changes in these interactions can lead to the characteristic toxic aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Frontotemporal dementia. In a new UK DRI programme, Prof Ule’s team aims to find out why this occurs and how to stop it using new therapeutics.

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On his new research programme, Prof Jernej Ule, said:

“In my group, we use experimental and computational approaches to study how the assembly of protein-RNA complexes are disrupted in neurodegenerative disease, which will help us develop therapies preventing the formation of abnormal complexes and aggregates.

One of the main strengths of UK DRI at King’s is in identifying defective protein-RNA complexes in ALS and developing gene therapies to correct these faults. I look forward to contributing to these efforts.

The UK DRI bridges the molecular, biomedical and therapeutic expertise in neurodegenerative research across the UK. At the King’s centre, we will join forces with the other centres to unravel the links between RNA biology and proteostasis, epigenetics and other themes studied across the UK DRI.”

Prof Ule takes on the role of Centre Director from Prof Chris Shaw, who stepped down last year following the launch of a new UK DRI gene therapy spin-out.

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On the selection of Prof Ule as the next Centre Director at King’s, UK DRI Director, Prof Bart De Strooper, said:

“We are delighted that Professor Ule will be joining the UK DRI. He is a leader in the field of RNA biology, with particular focus on ALS/FTD, which aligns strongly with the existing vision and strengths of the Centre. I very much look forward to working with him over the coming years, and making great progress in our search for new disease targets and much-needed treatments for dementia.”

Prof Mark Richardson, Head of School of Neuroscience, King's College London, said:

“Professor Ule is a wonderful addition to the School of Neuroscience. I am confident that under his leadership the UK DRI at King’s will continue to make important research discoveries, and will accelerate our progress towards a more inclusive research environment.”

Prof Richard Trembath, Senior Vice President, Health & Life Sciences, King’s College London and Executive Director, King’s Health Partners, said:

“We are pleased to welcome Professor Ule into the King’s community. His research work and achievements will contribute greatly to King’s Vision 2029. I very much look forward to seeing the Centre and related partnerships progress under his leadership.”

Join us for a free webinar with Prof Jernej Ule discussing his research:

How do protein-RNA condensates form and contribute to disease?

13-14:00 (BST), 06 May 2022 - Register here

Find out more about Prof Ule, his team and their research on his UK DRI profile and the Ule lab website.

Article published: 31 March 2022
Images courtesy of the Ule Lab