F. Ulrich Hartl's research is in mechanisms of cellular protein folding, specifically the structure and function of molecular chaperones. He delineated, resolved and reconstituted the complete pathway by which molecular chaperones cooperate to fold proteins in the living cell. In a series of elegant studies he established how the folding protein is recognized by one chaperone, thereby preventing premature misfolding, and then transferred to a molecular machine which promotes proper folding. While initially highly controversial, this mechanism is now well accepted and confirmed by x-ray crystallography. When these protein folding pathways are saturated or non-functional, protein aggregates accumulate in the cell. Examples of diseases that are likely the result of such aggregates are Alzheimer's and Huntington's Diseases.
Dr. Hartl earned his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1990. He began his postdoctoral fellowship in organelle biogenesis at the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at the University of Munich and continued his studies in protein secretion at the University of California at Los Angeles. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Hartl was an Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Genetics at Cornell University School of Medical Sciences. He received the Howard Hughes Award in 1994 and was an Associate Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1995 he was appointed to the William E. Snee Chair of Cellular Biochemistry at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Hartl was appointed managing Director of the Max-Planck-Institut fur Biochemie, Germany in 1997.