Kristian Helin

Kristian Helin

professor, group leader


Kristian Helin is Professor in Molecular Cancer Biology at BRIC, the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen. Prof. Helin was the Director (founding) of BRIC from 2003 to 2018. Since 2018, Prof. Helin has also been the Chair of the Cell Biology Program and the Director of the Center for Epigenetics Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is also a professor at the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and a Professor at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.


Dr. Helin graduated as MSc in Chemical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark in 1988 and was awarded a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Copenhagen for his research on the role of the human EGF receptor in cell proliferation and cancer. Between 1991 and 1993, Dr. Helin was a research fellow in the laboratory of Ed Harlow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he started working on the retinoblastoma protein and the E2F transcription factors. He returned to Denmark in 1994 to start as a group leader at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen. In 1995, Dr. Helin moved to the European Institute of Oncology in Milan as the head of one of the divisions in the Department of Experimental Oncology. Kristian Helin was appointed the founding Director of BRIC in 2003. From 2007-2017, he was also the Director of the Center for Epigenetics, a center of excellence funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, and since 2012 he has been one of the founding group leaders at the Danish Stem Cell Center (DanStem). Prof. Helin was elected as a member of EMBO in 2002 and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in 2008. He has received several prestigious awards for outstanding biomedical research, including the Novo Nordisk Prize, the Innovation Prize of the University of Copenhagen, the Carlsberg Foundation Prize, and the Anders Jahre Prize. 


The major focus of the research in Prof. Helin’s laboratory is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer and to transform this knowledge into novel anti-cancer therapies.  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 lab has developed several mouse models for leukemia and glioblastoma, and is currently using those to identify novel targets for cancer therapy.  Based on the discoveries in his lab Prof. Helin founded and was the CSO a biotech company EpiTherapeutics Aps in 2008 that developed small molecule inhibitors for the future treatment of cancer patients. The company was sold to Gilead in May 2015. 

Primary fields of research

Cancer biology
Stem cells

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