Anna Kottgen obtained her Medical Degree from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genetic Epidemiology. She currently is a Full Professor and Director of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology in Freiburg, Germany, and also and Adjunct Professor at the Dept. of Epidemiology of JHSPH. Her research focuses on using data from epidemiological and clinical studies to gain insights into human physiology and the pathophysiology of complex traits and diseases, with a special focus on kidney and metabolic diseases. Anna co-directs the international CKDGen Consortium as well as the Kidney Working Groups of the CHARGE Consortium and TOPMED Project, all large collaborations to study the genetics of kidney function and disease. She is also one of the leading investigators and key genetic team of the German Chronic Kidney Disease study, an ongoing cohort study of >5,000 patients with chronic kidney disease. Her lab aims to use human genetics as a tool to gain mechanistic insights, and Anna and her team collaborate extensively with basic science labs for this purpose.
How did you get into the CKD field and why is the field important to you?
Kidney physiology already started to fascinate me during my medical studies, and I decided to pursue my medical doctoral thesis in this area. Having trained in both medicine and epidemiology, investigating questions related to kidney physiology in a population rather than a clinical setting seemed a logical choice of research interest. Genetics can serve as a tool to understand the mechanisms underlying physiological processes in the kidney and the diseases that result from it.
What is a key question in the CKD field now? Where do you think the field is heading? I don’t think the key questions have changed much over time: What are the processes causing kidney diseases? What are the factors contributing to CKD progression and why are the trajectories of CKD patients variable? How can we intervene on these processes to improve patient outcomes? An additional question arising from my research interest is if we can identify physiologic processes that take place in the kidney but are relevant to extra-renal diseases.
What advice do you have for early career scientists that want to enter the CKD field?
Follow your interests to find an aspect that excites you and that you believe is meaningful, look for good mentors.