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Peter Kolkhof: Fighting Heart and Kidney Diseases

Searching for a needle in a haystack: Dr. Peter Kolkhof’s research team identified a drug candidate to treat kidney diseases.

What we´re doing is more improbable than the moon landing.

Dr. Peter Kolkhof. Bayer is testing a substance in two worldwide phase III studies identified by Kolkhof’s research team.

I was always curious about biology and medicine. Questions like “What is the basis for diseases?” and “How can we improve patient’s lives?” have fascinated me since I was in school. I´m lucky. Working at Bayer, I’m often finding answers to these questions. I search for novel drug candidates that can help fight life-threatening diseases.

Living for Research

Discovery and developing new drugs are long-term processes: For almost 17 years, I’ve been working on an agent to treat chronic heart and kidney diseases. In 2000, I launched a research project to identify a novel small molecule inhibitor for a receptor protein that has a crucial role in the development of cardiovascular and renal diseases. The multidisciplinary team I lead between 2004 and 2008 continuously optimized initial high throughput-screening hits, and later more advanced drug candidates. This research finally led to a promising drug candidate which inhibits mineralocorticoid receptors.

In a phase II trial with just over one thousand heart-failure patients, this drug candidate demonstrated an improved outcome regarding mortality and hospitalization. In another phase II trial, which assessed albumin levels in the urine of 823 patients with diabetic kidney disease, this drug candidate also dose-dependently showed a reduction in kidney damage. These are very promising results against such severe illnesses. Renal damages can be due to overactive mineralocorticoid receptors affected by aldosterone, a natural hormone. This receptor over-activity can lead to inflammatory and fibrotic processes that damage the heart and kidneys. Our active ingredient aims at preventing this process by blocking aldosterone’s binding to its receptor.

Passion, Patience, Luck - and 11,000 Patients

Bayer is currently investigating the mentioned promising drug candidate in two large phase III trials, aiming to recruit 11,000 patients in more than 40 countries worldwide. The whole team considers this as a marvelous achievement. The greatest satisfaction for a preclinical pharmacologist like me is to be a member of the research and development team right from the beginning. Passion and patience are ‘must-have’ skills of every drug discovery team, but you also need some luck to discover a substance that can make it through the clinical phases. Sadly, such discoveries rarely happen, only about one percent of the early candidates ever make it this far, and the luck factor is hard to accept for some researchers.

From Wuppertal to Wuppertal

I’ve been working on biology almost all of my life. I still work with the topics from my high school final exam: gene regulation and transcription factors. But now I’m working on them in a laboratory. I studied biology at Cologne University, with pharmacology, biochemistry and molecular biology as major subjects. One day, a former head of Bayer research gave a university lecture about the tremendous opportunities in applied science. After my graduation in 1994, I came back to Wuppertal to work at Bayer’s Institute for Cardiovascular Research.

I grew up about 500 meters away from the research center I work at right now. I left the area for an assignment at our former research department in Milan, Italy, from 1999 to 2001; then I returned. My family still lives in the Wuppertal area today. During my leisure time, I like to hike in this region. Even from my office, I love the view of green hills and meadows.

CV: Dr. Peter Kolkhof

1965 Born in Wuppertal

1990 Master’s degree from Cologne University (Germany)

1994 Doctorate

1995 Post Doc at Bayer

1996 Lab Leader at Bayer

1999-2001 Department Head at Bayer in Milan, Italy

2002-today Leader of several preclinical projects at Bayer in Wuppertal

2004-2008 Preclinical Project Leader, Finerenone

2010-today Principal Scientist Cardiovascular Research

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