Walter J. Koch

Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA
Lecture Title: 
"GRK2 Inhibition for Heart Failure - Nearing Translation"

Dr. Walter J. Koch is the inaugural holder of the William Wikoff Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Previously, he was the W.W. Smith Professor of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University (2003-2012). He currently is the Chairperson of the Department of Pharmacology and Director of the Center for Translational Medicine. Dr. Koch started his career at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine where he received his PhD in Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics 1990 under the mentorship of Dr. Arnold Schwartz. He went to Duke University Medical Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a postdoctoral fellow (1990-1994) in the lab of Dr. Robert Lefkowitz (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2012). He then was recruited to start a molecular cardiovascular biology laboratory in the Department of Surgery at Duke in 1995 and advanced to tenured Full Professor in 2001. In 2003 he was recruited to lead the newly established Center for Translational Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and successfully built that Center before moving it to Temple in 2012. The Koch lab studies molecular mechanisms for cardiac injury and repair focusing on G protein-coupled signaling in the heart and also development of novel molecular strategies to repair the heart including gene therapy. His research work has revealed the novel roles G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) play in cardiac injury and repair. Manipulating these GRKs, and targeting them with therapeutics, could lead to new treatments for heart failure patients. In fact, inhibition of one GRK, GRK2, in the heart has led to the reversal of heart failure in several animal models. This has been shown to occur by using a gene therapy approach in pre-clinical studies in both small and large animal models and this methodology is advancing to human clinical trials. More recently, small molecule, pharmacological inhibitors of GRK2 have been developed that show exciting translational potential. Dr. Koch heads a large laboratory group that is well funded and has trained over 60 fellows in the last 25 years. Numerous awards and honors have recognized Dr. Koch’s research over recent years including the International Society for Heart Research 2011 Outstanding Investigator Award, the Jefferson Medical College Inaugural Career Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences in 2010, the American Heart Association Thomas Smith Memorial Lecture and Award for Cardiovascular Signaling in 2009, and a 10-year MERIT award running through 2019. He recently received the 2017 Basic Research Prize from the American Heart Association (AHA) and in 2018, a $1 Million un-restricted Merit Award from the AHA to study how the heart communicates with distant organs such as fat through secretion of factors regulating the size and number of fat cells in the body. He was recently informed that he is the 2020 winner of the Research Achievement Award from the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR).