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2013 Working Group Young Investigator Award price winner: Interview with Erik W. Holy

Basic Science

Q1: Erik, it was a pleasure to have you as a winner of the Second Edition of the ESC YIA in Atherosclerosis. I hope you enjoyed the experience. Why did you decide to get into cardiovascular research?

A1: Thank you so much! It was a great experience and receiving the YIA in Vascular Biology meant a lot to me. Already during my first semesters at medical school i was fascinated by the fact that medicine is not only about treating patients and their disease but also about understanding the complex molecular processes underlying the pathophysiology of the disease. In particular i felt that despite the remarkable technical advances made in cardiovascular medicine we are still far away of curing cardiovascular disease. This challenge fascinated me. This is the reason why i embarked on this journey and joined the cardiovascular research group lead by Prof. Felix C. Tanner and Prof. Thomas F. Lüscher at the University of Zurich.  Since that research has been inspiring and its pursuit an enchanting mission.

Q2: What led you to start this specific research project and/or lab?

A2: In our daily clinical routine as cardiologist we are struggling with the complex subpopulation of renal disease patients. Indeed large scale registry data demonstrate that those patients are at a particular high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The mechanisms mediating this effect however are barely understood. A recent prospective trial even demonstrated that statin therapy despite lowering LDL cholesterol levels did not reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events  in patients with end-stage renal disease suggesting that probably the management of lipid levels alone is not enough. Our group believes that the key of success lies in both modification of plasma levels and improvement of the functionality of lipoproteins.

Q3: What do you think it was the secret of your success as Young Investigator?

A3: I believe the most important and probably difficult part is to design a creative study and address a clinically relevant issue. In particular i think it is important to highlight the translational aspect of basic science projects, since most of the members of the cardiovascular scientific community evolve in a clinical environment. Another important guarantee for the success of my project was the continuous support and input i received from my mentors as well as collaborators. Of course generating exciting preliminary results is an important step toward getting an abstract accepted in the basic science category. And last but not least: luck always influences our success!

Q4: What did you most enjoy of your time in cardiovascular research?

A4:  There is no doubt that the most rewarding moments in my scientific career have been the nominations for the Young Investigator Awards from the ESC in 2012 and 2013. This has been such an exciting experience!

Q5: Will you stay in research or plan to go back to clinical activities?

A5: Following the submission of my PhD thesis i started my clinical training in internal medicine and cardiology. Fortunately, despite the daily clinical routine i still  have the opportunity to pursue research projects. However, i believe that in the near future my focus will move from mainly experimental projects to more translational studies combining both basic science and clinical research.

Again congratulations for your achievement! Thanks for the interview! 

Notes to editor

Erik W. Holy is Resident physician (M.D., Ph.D.) at the Division of Cardiology, University Heart Center, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland (

The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.