About the Chair
The Chair of the Department is Walter J. Koch, PhD, FAHA, the William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine. An internationally known heart researcher and leading authority on heart failure, Dr. Koch is best known for pioneering and advancing the study of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) kinases (GRKs) in cardiovascular physiology and disease. His research has been continuously funded since 1998 by the NIH, the American Heart Association, and the W.W. Smith Foundation, among others.
A native of Bryan, Ohio, Dr. Koch earned his PhD in pharmacology and cell biophysics at the University of Cincinnati. He completed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellowship at Duke University and served on the faculties of Duke and Thomas Jefferson University before joining the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple in 2012. At Duke he worked with Robert Lefkowitz, MD, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012.
Dr. Koch has served on numerous committees and boards at the national level to help advance cardiovascular research. Among other leadership roles, he has chaired the National Institutes of Health Cardiac Contractility and Heart Failure Study Section and the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Council.
A fellow of both the American Heart Association and the International Society for Heart Research, he’s earned many prestigious honors, including 2020 Research Achievement Award of the International Society for Heart Research – the most prestigious honor given to a senior researcher.
Dr. Koch discovered that, in heart cells, GRK2 and GRK5 influence heart function through pathways unrelated to their “normal” activities. The discovery of these noncanonical activities provided insight into abnormalities in heart cells that arise within the context of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases – pointing to GRK2 and GRK5 as attractive drug targets, constituting an entirely new class of drugs. Dozens of his close to 500 publications detail GRK2’s roles in the molecular mechanisms of cardiac injury and repair – and the potential of a GRK2 inhibitor he developed (βARKct) as a possible gene therapy for heart failure. In several preclinical models, GRK inhibition has reversed heart failure.
“As chair, it is my role to get science out of the silos of the past and to foster dialogues to enhance collaborations, knowledge, and joint funding -- to create an environment where scholarship flourishes,” says Dr. Koch.