Henning Walczak is the Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Cologne, Germany, and also holds a part-time position as Professor of Cancer Biology at University College London (UCL), United Kingdom. Professor Walczak previously conducted research at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and at the biotech company Immunex Corp. in Seattle, WA, USA.
Together with Peter Krammer, he founded the biotech firm Apogenix AG in Heidelberg. In 2007, Walczak transferred to London, initially as a Professor of Tumour Immunology at Imperial College before joining the UCL Cancer Institute in 2013.
He has received numerous awards, including an ERC Advanced Grant and two Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards. In 2019, he was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship Award, one of the most prestigious research prizes in Germany, for his position as Professor and Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Cologne.
Following his PhD in 1995 at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany, Henning Walczak worked as a postdoctoral scientist at Immunex Corporation in Seattle (WA, USA). In 1998 he returned to the DKFZ where he became group leader in 2000 following the receipt of a BioFuture Prize awarded by the German Ministry for Science and Education.
In 2007 he was appointed as Chair of Tumour Immunology at Imperial College London and joined UCL in 2013 as Professor of Cancer Biology and Scientific Director of the Cancer Research UK – UCL Centre. In 2012 Professor Walczak was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant and received a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award.
Professor Walczak’s research is focused on the biology of cell death and inflammation. He is particularly interested in unravelling the mechanisms of how different death receptor-ligand systems, including the TNF, Fas and TRAIL systems, are regulated in cancer and auto-immunity. His research aims at developing innovative therapies on the basis of directly and specifically inducing cancer cell death as well as new therapeutic options for patients suffering from auto-immunity, based on the concept that distinct forms of cell death differentially affect inflammation and immunity.
Professor Walczak has demonstrated the role of various proteins as ligands, receptors and signalling factors that induce or prevent programmed cell death. Insights of this kind lay the foundations for new approaches to therapy: if it is possible to specifically activate the cell suicide programme, cancer cells could be killed without damaging the surrounding normal cells.
The best way how to achieve this is the subject of ongoing research in the Walczak lab. Additionally, as Professor Walczak has stated: “Studying these pathways in cancer and non-cancer cells has revealed possible new means to treat cancer, auto-immune disorders and potentially also infectious diseases.”
Recognition and Awards