Johan Auwerx, Professor at the ETH Lausanne (EPFL), has been awarded this year’s Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist for his work on mitochondria and their role in the metabolism. He has made significant findings on how nutrients interact with the cells of the body and trigger certain reactions such as breaking down fat cells and preventing metabolic disorders. His findings have greatly helped to improve quality of life.
Professor Johan Auwerx conducts research into the role played by the metabolism in health, aging and disease. For many years, it has been known that many foodstuffs, such as pome-granates, grapes and milk, can have a positive effect on health. It seems that food can do more than simply supply the body with energy. Specific substances in foodstuffs communicate with cells and trigger the breakdown of fats in mitochondria (the cells’ ‘power stations’), in a similar way to certain hormones. Professor Auwerx discovered this complex communication system, and in doing so, he inadvertently paved the way to finding new preventive and therapeutic strategies for combating obesity and cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. His ground-breaking discoveries also help doctors to tailor medical treatments to the personal profile of the patient.
Professor Johan Auwerx has been awarded the 2016 Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist not only for his pioneering research over a 30-year career but also because countless scientists around the world benefit from his findings on the workings of the human metabolism. He is one of the world’s most highly regarded researchers in the field of molecular physiology and the organic metabolism. In addition, as a mentor, he has successfully passed on his expertise to numerous young researchers.
Johan Auwerx has worked at the ETH Lausanne since 2008, where he heads the Laboratory of Integrative Systems Physiology and holds the Nestlé Chair in Energy Metabolism. He was born in 1958 in Diepenbeek, Belgium, and studied medicine at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, gaining his doctorate in 1982. Thereafter he worked in Belgium, France and the USA. Before his appointment to the ETH Lausanne, he was a professor at the prestigious Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg. He has received numerous international awards in the course of his career. He also has a seat on various scientific bodies, and has been a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) since 2003.