History

In June 2003, Brunhilde Wirth, PhD – from the Institute of Human Genetics in Bonn - was appointed to the C4 professorship for Human Genetics and founded a new Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Cologne. The facility opened in May 2004 with 23 employees working there. In December 2004, Dr. Christian Kubisch of the Institute of Human Genetics in Bonn was appointed as the W2 professor for Medical Genetics at the Institute. He headed the Department of Clinical Genetics until August 2010, when he moved to Ulm to become the Director of the Institute of Human Genetics. In August 2012, the head of the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (Zentrum für Molekulare Medizin Köln, ZMMK), Dr Bernd Wollnik, assumed the professorship for Medical Genetics at the Institute. Prof. Bernd Wollnik also headed the Center for Rare Diseases at the University of Cologne that he established. In September 2015, Prof. Bernd Wollnik became Director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Göttingen. In fall 2016, the Medical Faculty resolved to upgrade the W2 professorship to a W3 professorship for Clinical Genomics. Prof. Christian Patrick Schaaf, MD, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, was appointed to this professorship and moved to Cologne in March of 2018. Prof. Schaaf became head of Healthcare Services at the Institute of Human Genetics. By April 2019, Christian P Schaaf transferred to the University of Heidelberg and assumed responsibility for the Institute of Human Genetics there. In April 2019, Dr Christian Netzer took over directorship of Healthcare Services at the Institute.

The Institute focusses on research, teaching, molecular genetic diagnostics and counselling in human genetics. The six working groups at the Institute work with cutting edge methods in national and international associations to research the causes of genetically-based diseases. Special areas of research include neuromuscular diseases, autism, neurological developmental disorders, unclarified syndromes, kidney diseases, skeletal diseases and disorders of lipid metabolism.

The Institute serves as a bridge between the Medical Faculty and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Cologne; this function highlights the close collaboration between the two faculties. Prof. Brunhilde Wirth teaches at both faculties and, in addition to the right to award doctorates at the Medical Faculty, also has the right to award the a doctorate title at the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

All scientific staff are involved in teaching. We thoroughly enjoy teaching human genetics to students in Medicine and in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, as it is a comprehensive subject relevant to the future.

Prof. Dr. Christian Netzer, MD is head of genetic counselling and molecular genetic diagnostics. The Institute is an important partner at the Center for Rare Diseases in Cologne (Zentrum für Seltene Erkrankungen in Köln, ZSEK).

Since 2009, a portion of the services in human genetics has been carried out in cooperation with the Medical Health Center (Medizinisches Versorgungszentrum, MVZ) at the University of Cologne, under the direction of Prof Netzer.

In collaboration with the Office of Human Genetics of Dr. Dieter Meschede and Regine Schubert, PhD, the Institute is fully accredited for advanced training of specialists in human genetics (GfH = German Society of Human Genetics).

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