The DRFZ mourns the loss of Jochen Kalden – founding father and mentor of the DRFZ
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. mult. Joachim R. Kalden
* 23. November 1937 † 6. Februar 2021
Simply put, without Joachim (Jochen) R. Kalden , the German Rheumatism Research Centre would not exist. In the 1980s, Joachim Kalden was instrumental in initially developing the concept for an institute specialising in rheumatic disease research, and in eventually in founding this institute in Berlin: the German Rheumatism Research Centre (DRFZ). Today, the DRFZ is a Leibniz Institute, funded by the State of Berlin and the Federal Government. Jochen Kalden recruited the internationally renowned scientist Avrion Mitchison as the founding director (1989 – 1996). As President of the Board of Trustees (1994 – 2003), he supported the development of the Institute from its smallest beginnings to the review by the Wissenschaftsrat (German Science Council) who recommended that the internationally renowned DRFZ be admitted to the Leibniz Association. In 1996, Jochen Kalden appointed Andreas Radbruch to succeed Avrion Mitchison, and in 2000, the DRFZ was finally able to move into a newly built research building shared with the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. The DRFZ’s integration into the Charité campus and its immediate proximity to the Department of Rheumatology allow for a close integration of clinical rheumatology and immunology with modern basic research in cellular and molecular biology. This is reflected in numerous jointly supported research groups and in the Leibniz Science Campus “Chronic Inflammation”. This concept of biomedical research fits to Jochen Kalden’s vision and he played a major role in shaping it. We will continue on this path paved by him.
Pioneer of modern rheumatology and immunology
Jochen Kalden, born on 23 November 1937 in Marburg/Lahn, studied medicine at the universities of Freiburg, Marburg and Tübingen, where he also obtained his doctorate. As a scientist and physician, he was interested in the phenomenon of autoimmunity, and the diseases caused by it. Today, there is still no cure for many of these diseases and they are a challenge for biomedical research. After research visits at the University of Edinburgh and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Jochen Kalden moved to Hannover Medical School to work with Helmuth Deicher and Fritz Hartmann. Here, he qualified as a specialist in internal medicine. In 1977, he was appointed Professor of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology and Director of Medical Clinic III at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Jochen Kalden developed his clinic and the affiliated Institute for Clinical Immunology into an internationally respected research centre investigating the immunological basis of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Essential insights into the pathogenesis of SLE were gained, resulting in more than 600 scientific publications. Concepts for the therapeutic ablation of antibody-secreting B lymphocytes (plasma cells) and cytokine-secreting T lymphocytes were developed in conjunction with Jochen Kalden, who pioneered the introduction of biologics into the clinic, thus ushering in a new dimension of rheumatic disease therapy.
Jochen Kalden’s research approach of uncovering the immunological basis of rheumatic diseases in order to develop new therapies that have a causal effect had a crucial impact on science. In addition to his research, he was also fundamental in shaping national and European immunology and rheumatology networks, including being president of the German Society for Immunology DGfI (1983 – 1990), the German Society for Rheumatology DGRh (1993 – 1994) and the European League against Rheumatism EULAR(1999 – 2005).
Photos, unless otherwise indicated: Jacqueline Hirscher