Kristian Helin

Kristian Helin is the founding director of the Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen.

Kristian Helin is the director of the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Epigenetics, Professor of Biomedical Gene Technology at the University of Copenhagen and head of the PhD programme Molecular Mechanisms of Disease. He is a co-founder of the biotech company EpiTherapeutics, where he is on the board of directors and chair of the scientific advisory board.

Awards and Honours

Kristian Helin is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters. He has received several awards and prizes including the Novo Nordisk Prize for outstanding biomedical research. Prof. Helin has held several editorial positions, and is currently Deputy Editor of the journal Oncogene, and sits on the editorial advisory boards of EMBO Journal, EMBO Reports, Cancer Research and BMC Cell Division. Kristian Helin also serves on several other advisory boards and grant committees.

Research Profile

The major aim of research in the group is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer, with the aim of identifying novel anti-cancer therapies. The research group has made several key discoveries in the area of cell cycle regulation, apoptosis and DNA replication. In the last 5-7 years, the group has been increasingly active in the area of epigenetics and stem cells, which is the primary focus of the group today. This research has led to the identification of novel mechanisms for the control of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation, the identification of novel enzymatic activities regulating histone methylation, and to important new insights into how cancer develops. The discoveries have also led to the foundation of the biotech company, EpiTherapeutics. Kristian Helin is an author of 125 peer-reviewed scientific publications that have been cited more than 11,000 times. Dr. Helin is the corresponding author on the majority of these publications and has an h-index of 57.

Key Recent Discoveries

Discovered and characterized 4 families of histone demethylases:

Kleine-Kohlbrecher, Daniela, Jesper Christensen, Julien Vandamme, Iratxe Abarrategui, Mads Bak, Niels Tommerup, Xiaobing Shi, Or Gozani, Juri Rappsilber, Anna Elisabetta Salcini & Kristian Helin (2010). A functional link between the histone demethylase PHF8 and the transcription factor ZNF711 in X-linked mental retardation. Molecular Cell, 38, 165-178, doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2010.03.002.

Agger, Karl, Paul A. C. Cloos, Jesper Christensen, Diego Pasini, Simon Rose, Juri Rappsilber, Irina Issaeva, Eli Canaani, Anna Elisabetta Salcini & Kristian Helin (2007). UTX and JMJD3 are H3K27 demethylases involved in HOX gene regulation and development. Nature, 449, 731-734, doi: 10.1038/nature06145.

Christensen, Jesper, Karl Agger, Paul A. C. Cloos, Diego Pasini, Simon Rose, Lau Sennels, Juri Rappsilber, Klaus Hansen, Anna Elisabetta Salcini & Kristian Helin (2007). RBP2 belongs to a family of demethylases specific for tri- and di-methylated lysine 4 on Histone 3. Cell, 128, 1063-1076, 10.1016/j.cell.2007.02.003.

Cloos, Paul A. C., Jesper Christensen, Karl Agger, Alessio Maiolica, Juri Rappsilber, Torben Antal, Klaus H. Hansen & Kristian Helin (2006). The putative oncogene GASC1/JMJD2c demethylates tri- and di-methylated lysine 9 on histone H3. Nature, 442, 307-311, doi: 10.1038/nature04837.

Major contributions to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the DNA methylation and histone methylation maintain transcriptional patterns, regulate stem cell differentiation and contribute to cancer:

Riising, Eva Madi, Itys Comet, Benjamin Leblanc, Xudong Wu, Jens Vilstrup Johansen & Kristian Helin (2014). Gene Silencing Triggers Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 Recruitment to CpG Islands Genome Wide. Molecular Cell, 55(3), 347-360, doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2014.06.005.

Wu, Xudong, Jens Vilstrup Johansen & Kristian Helin (2013). Fbxl10/kdm2b Recruits Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 to CpG Islands and Regulates H2A Ubiquitylation. Molecular Cell, 49(6), 1134-1146, doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.01.016.

Williams, Kristine, Jesper Christensen, Marianne Terndrup Pedersen, Jens V. Johansen, Paul A. C. Cloos, Juri Rappsilber & Kristian Helin (2011).  TET1 and hydroxymethylcytosine in transcription and DNA methylation fidelity. Nature, 473, 343-348, doi:10.1038/nature10066. 

Pasini, Diego, Paul A. C. Cloos, Julian Walfridsson, Linda Olsson, John-Paul Bukowski, Jens V. Johansen, Mads Bak, Niels Tommerup, Juri Rappsilber & Kristian Helin (2010). JARID2 regulates binding of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 to target genes in ES cells. Nature, 464, 306-310, doi: 10.1038/nature08788

Potential Conflicts of Interest

Kristian Helin is a co-founder of EpiTherapeutics Aps.  He is consultant for the company, member of the Board of Directors, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board, and he owns stocks in the company.