The physician, researcher, and science manager Matthias Tschöp has been CEO and scientific director at Helmholtz Munich since 2018 and Alexander von Humboldt professor at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) since 2012. In his new role as Helmholtz Vice President of Health Research, he aims to drive excellence in basic biomedical research and accelerate its application for people:
“Our goal at Helmholtz Health is to jointly bring groundbreaking research results even faster into application for personalized prevention and precision medicine. To this end, we use the latest key technologies and frequently develop them ourselves in the fields bioengineering or artificial intelligence. We create synergies through large-scale projects across centers, intensified collaboration with university medicine and the establishment of new cooperation platforms with industry. Together, we can attract brilliant minds worldwide to our research and thus strengthen Germany as a research and healthcare location,” says Tschöp.
Commenting on the start of the new vice presidency, Otmar D. Wiestler, President of Helmholtz, said: “We are very pleased to have gained such an innovative and dedicated researcher for our Presidium. His initiatives have long inspired the cutting-edge medical research of our community. As coordinator of the health division, he will now further enhance Helmholtz Health’s internationally outstanding reputation.”
Successes as a diabetes researcher
Personally, Matthias Tschöp achieved his most important scientific successes in the field of diabetes and obesity research: In addition to the hunger hormone ghrelin, he discovered the therapeutics class of polyagonists. The latter are the most effective obesity drugs, first versions of which have been approved last year. More than ten additional polyagonists are currently in clinical trials, promising a new era of metabolic medicine. For the first time, the widespread diseases of overweight and obesity can be effectively treated with these drugs, thereby significantly reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
For this work in the fields of prevention and therapy, the Munich-based family father has already received many prestigious awards such as the Carus Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina). From his own experience he knows the different perspectives of medicine and research: After gaining his license to practice medicine, he first moved to diabetes research at a pharmaceutical company in the U.S. in 1999, then co-founded a startup and headed a research institute at the University of Cincinnati as professor and research director. In 2011, he followed a joint call from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Helmholtz Munich to Germany. There, as founding director, he built the Helmholtz Diabetes Center into a world-leading research institution and established the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus.
With more than 43,000 employees, the Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific organization in Germany and one of the largest worldwide. The executive board consists of eight vice presidents, the president and the managing director. Since 2007, each of the association’s six research fields – matter, energy, aeronautics, space and transport, information, earth and environment, and health – has been represented by a vice president on the governing body.