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since 1969
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Paul Martini Prize 2014 print page
Award for new approaches in the treatment of diabetes and obesity
Paul Martini Prize 2014 awarded
Matthias Tschöp (Center) with Members of the Board of the Foundation and Spokesman of the Jury Stefan Endres (next to Tschöp).
Foto: Paul-Martini-Stiftung

Wiesbaden, April 28, 2014 (PMS). Type 2 diabetes and associated obesity can possibly be treated more effectively in the future than today – through novel active ingredients derived from the body’s own hormones. These active ingredients combine the properties of several hormones in a single molecule. They are the result of research by the Helmholtz Diabetes Center at the Munich Helmholtz Center and Technical University Munich under the leadership of Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Tschöp. Today, Tschöp received the Paul Martini Prize worth EUR 25,000, which is awarded every year by the Paul Martini Foundation, Berlin, for outstanding achievements in clinical-therapeutic pharmaceutical research. The award ceremony was held during the annual conference of the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) in Wiesbaden.

“Tschöp’s research gives rise to hope that we will be able to help patients suffering from type 2 diabetes even better in the future than today and that metabolic changes that previously required gastrointestinal surgery can possibly also be achieved through medication,” Prof. Stefan Endres said in his congratulatory speech. “Tschöp’s outstanding publications also underscore that research in Germany provides key impulses for diabetes therapy again, especially because it is closely interconnected internationally.”

Nutrient use in the body and the associated regulation of blood sugar levels and fat reserves are controlled by a network of hormones. Some of them are released by the pancreas, the intestines and the body’s fat tissue, but the hormones of other organs – including estrogen – also take part in these control mechanisms. In type 2 diabetes, the metabolism is disrupted and a series of diabetes drugs target this disorder in terms of hormonal regulation. However, despite continuous progress in therapeutic possibilities, this complex disease is not satisfactorily treatable to this day.

Tschöp, who also chairs the “New Therapeutic Approaches” research program at the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), established an important basis for his therapeutic research years ago by identifying on what parts of the brain certain gastrointestinal hormones take effect.

Over the past few years, Tschöp worked with chemist Professor Richard DiMarchi (University of Indiana, United States) on developing possibilities to more comprehensively interfere with hormonal control of nutrient use in order to counteract type 2 diabetes and frequently associated obesity. This work resulted in e.g. several synthetic hormone molecules that combine the effect of two or three natural hormones of the pancreas or intestines. In animal trials, they simultaneously regulated blood sugar levels, reduced weight and had a favorable effect on blood lipids. Several of the synthetic combination hormones first described by Tschöp and DiMarchi are already being tested in initial clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies.

With his work, Tschöp builds on experiences with patients who underwent gastrointestinal surgery for weight reduction – the so-called bariatric surgery. In many cases, the surgery changed not just the patients’ digestion but also their hormonal metabolic regulation. In the future, these effects are to be achieved through medication.

It has long been known that estrogen can have a favorable metabolic impact in diabetes and obesity. However, the hormone was not easily usable for this purpose, because it simultaneously caused strong undesirable effects in the required concentrations. Now Tschöp and his collaborators have found a way how estrogen administered as a drug can be directed primarily to those cells participating in metabolic regulation while bypassing the sexual organs or cells susceptible to cancer. The researchers connected the estrogen with the intestinal hormone GLP-1. This combination will deliver estrogen only to cells (e.g. in the pancreas) that carry GLP-1 receptors. Animal trials succeeded in creating a normalization of important metabolic settings, associated with a significant weight reduction. Human trials are being planned.

What is promising for the future is that this principle can be oriented toward different target cells depending on the combination of peptide and steroid hormones and therefore to the specific malfunction in various diseases. As a result, Tschöp and his team are succeeding in taking an important step on the path to more personalized medicine in metabolic disorders.

The award winner

Since 2011, Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Tschöp has been serving as the Head of Research at Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC) and as Director at the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity (IDO) at Helmholtz Zentrum München – Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH). He also holds the chair for metabolic diseases at Technical University Munich, serves as associated professor at Yale University and chairs the “New Therapeutic Approaches” research program at Deutsches Zentrum für Diabetes­forschung (DZD).

Until 2010, he held the Arthur Russell Morgan Endowed Chair of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati and served as Research Director for the Cincinnati Diabetes and Obesity Center. As a postdoctoral fellow, he worked in research for Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis before he joined the German Institute for Nutritional Research in Potsdam as head of a working group at the start of the 1990s. Tschöp graduated with a doctorate degree from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich where he also worked as a clinician in internal medicine for several years.

In 2013, Professor Tschöp was admitted to the German Academy of Natural Scientists (Leopoldina).

The Paul Martini Foundation

The non­profit, Berlin­based Paul Martini Foundation promotes pharmaceutical research as well as research on pharmaceutical therapy and intensifies the scientific dialog between medical scientists at universities, hospitals, the research­based pharmaceutical industry, other research institutions, and representatives from health policy and government agencies. The foundation is sponsored by the German Association of Research­based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa), Berlin, and its currently 45 member companies.

The foundation was named after the outstanding scientist and physician from Bonn, Professor Paul Martini (1889 ­ 1964), in honor of his special achievements and service with regard to the advancement and continued development of clinical­therapeutic research, which he impacted significantly for decades with his "Methods of Therapeutic Examination" published in 1932.

Press Release (PDF)
Photo of the prize winner Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp (JPG)
CV of the prize winner (PDF)


Der Preisträger
Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Tschöp
Helmholtz Zentrum München
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Institut für Diabetes und Adipositas
Parkring 13
85748 Garching

Tel: +49 89 3187-2044
Fax: +49 89 3187-2182
E-Mail: matthias.tschoep(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de

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