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01 April 2022

New Centre Director joins UK DRI at King's College London

King’s College London welcomes Professor Jernej Ule as the new Centre Director at UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) at King's

Jernej Ule

Professor Jernej Ule is an expert in RNA biology and research group leader looking at the role of RNA in neurodegenerative diseases. Professor Ule will join the UK DRI at King’s from April 2022, in addition to taking up the position of van Geest Professor of Neurodegeneration Research. Through this role he will be providing scientific leadership within the UK DRI community, developing collaborative opportunities at King’s as well as across the wider research community and industry, and contributing to the growth and success of the institute.

On the announcement, Professor Ule remarked, “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 in 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.”

Professor Ule joined the UK DRI from a Group Leader position at the Francis Crick Institute. He has over 20 years of research experience, establishing his first group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in 2006. Prof Ule also leads a satellite research team at the Institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana, funded by the European Research Council.

His research focuses on a versatile molecule called ribonucleic acid (RNA), which has many roles in cells. One of its roles is through its interaction with various proteins, and evidence suggests that changes in these interactions can lead to the abnormal accumulations of the proteins in neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Frontotemporal dementia. His research team in UK DRI at King’s aims to find out why this occurs and how it can be stopped using new therapeutics.

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.

Professor Jernej Ule, UK DRI at King’s Centre Director

Prof Ule takes on the role of Centre Director from Professor Chris Shaw, who stepped down last year following the launch of a new UK DRI gene therapy spin-out. Professor Ule will be based at the Maurice-Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute, the home to IoPPN's Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience at the Denmark Hill campus.

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 Prof 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.”

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.

Professor Mark Richardson, Head of School of Neuroscience

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.

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