An interview to Dr. Thomas Krieg, visiting scientist at the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences
An interview to Dr. Thomas Krieg, visiting scientist invited by Prof Bernardi and Prof Scorrano (Department of Biology) and Prof Di Lisa (Department of Biomedical Sciences)
Thomas Krieg, Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology at University of Cambridge, also works as Honorary Consultant Physician in General Medicine at Cambridge University Hospital. During his career, he published several seminal papers in the field of cardiovascular research. In particular, he discovered that the levels of a key cell reagent, succinate, is quickly enhanced during ischemia (that is, loss of blood flow upon blockade of an artery, either at the heart during a heart attack or in the brain during stroke) and rapidly lowered when blood flow is restored (Chouchani et al, Nature, 2014). Based on these findings, Dr. Krieg’s interest shifted towards mitochondria, intracellular organelles that function as a cell energy factory. In this context, he continuously added -and still adds- new pieces to the unsolved puzzle of ischemia/reperfusion injury, heart failure, and stroke. His work will certainly have translational impact, being at the crossroad between basic research and clinics, and towards novel therapeutical strategies to prevent cell death.
Could you summarize in few words the main goals of your research plans?
Being both a clinician and a researcher, I think that communication and scientific exchange between experts of different fields is mandatory. This is why I am active member of our “Mitochondrial Therapies Group”, together with scientist from various backgrouns, including Chistian Frezza (Metabolomics), Mike Murphy (Biochemistry) and Richard Hartley (Chemistry) (https://www.mtg.group.cam.ac.uk/). We recently joined our efforts in order to transform basic research into novel mitochondria-targeting therapies. I am the responsible of the in vivo part and the outlook towards translation.
Why did you start doing research?
At the beginning, I worked for about 5 years in a cardiology clinic, and then I more or less got bored. Research turned out to be much more exciting. Therefore I decided to work as a physician scientist.
Which are the current biggest challenges of science/research?
One big challenge is to bring our findings into real life of patients. We spend lots of money in research and still are not able to completely face big disorders. One such good examples is stroke: we, as clinicians, can just tell a patient “take an aspirin”, but we can not really cure them or prevent the disease. The second main challenge is to connect scientists, clinicians, normal people, industries and politicians. Scientists wants money to do research, clinicians want to cure patients, people want to know what you are doing with their money, industries want to develop and sell new products, and politicians…want to be re-elected. But there is a huge miscommunication among all these parts. There is maybe only one example in which all the parties were able to join their efforts back in the 80s: that’s AIDS. By everybody agreeing and pulling resources together, it was able to tackle the disease from many angles and, although we still do not fully understand all the molecular details of this pathology, now it is no more a major issue and people can have almost normal lives, despite being HIV positive.
What are your interests outside science?
I like traveling and old cars. I also like running, but mostly only after I finished a run. I hate to start it.
Interview by Marta Giacomello