Boehringer Ingelheim and the ETH Zurich announce diabetes and obesity research collaboration

Boehringer Ingelheim, the Institute of Molecular Health Science and the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health of the ETH Zurich will collaborate to achieve new insights into the development of diabetes and obesity. The joint effort will focus on investigating three cell types that may contribute to the onset of diseases such as obesity and diabetes because of their dominant role in metabolic homoeostasis. With this four-year, industry-academia collaboration, Boehringer Ingelheim will further strengthen its efforts to translate basic scientific findings into more effective treatments of human diseases.

As partners, Boehringer Ingelheim and the ETH Zurich will work together to enhance the knowledge of these diseases. The aim is to enable the discovery and development of innovative treatments that have the potential to improve the therapy as well as the discovery of novel biomarkers and diagnostic tools that may contribute to better monitoring and planning of therapeutic interventions for diabetes and obesity.

The partners have defined four initial research projects which are expected to shed light on the link between preclinical findings from the laboratory or from investigational treatments and the progression of the disease in patients. The projects range from the exploration of the function of surface proteins and signaling pathways of neuroendocrine cells in the pancreatic islets and the intestine to the exploration of brown fat tissue development. Results from these studies may either facilitate the design of new drug candidates for clinical testing, enable researchers to design better clinical trials for potential new drugs, or optimize the application of medical treatments in order to maximize clinical benefit in specific patient populations.

The research collaboration takes advantage of the pioneering work previously performed by the groups of Professor Markus Stoffel and Professor Christian Wolfrum, and will further advance the selected projects in a true partnership.

Professor Roland Siegwart, Vice President for Research and Corporate Relations at ETH Zurich says, “We are excited to engage in this research collaboration to investigate basic mechanism of metabolic disease and possible treatments, which also reflects the strategic initiatives of ETH Zurich in the area of heath science.”

“We are very pleased to collaborate in this field of medical need with the distinguished scientists of the ETH Zurich”, says Professor Wolfgang Rettig, the Corporate Senior Vice President Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “This collaboration will provide new insights into the pathophysiology of diabetes and obesity and will further bolster our efforts to find innovative medicines for the treatment of these prevalent diseases”.

Diabetes affects approximately 366 million people worldwide. Over the next 20 years this number is expected to increase by 50%, reaching close to 552 million. It contributes to nearly four million deaths per year worldwide and is a leading cause of death in most developed countries and a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes and is estimated to be responsible for 90% of all newly diagnosed cases.

About the ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich has come to symbolise excellent education, ground breaking basic research and applied results that are beneficial for society as a whole. Founded in 1855, it today offers researchers an inspiring environment and students a comprehensive education as one of the world’s leading universities for technology and the natural sciences.

ETH Zurich has more than 17,000 students from approximately 80 countries, 3,700 of whom are doctoral candidates. More than 450 professors teach and conduct research in the areas of engineering, architecture, mathematics, natural sciences, system-oriented sciences, and management and social sciences. ETH Zurich regularly appears at the top of international rankings as one of the best universities in the world. 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underlining the excellent reputation of the institute.

About Boehringer Ingelheim

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 44,000 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

As a central element of its culture, Boehringer Ingelheim pledges to act socially responsible. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim’s endeavors.

In 2011, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 13.2 billion euros. R&D expenditure in the business area Prescription Medicines corresponds to 23.5% of its net sales.