28.09.16 - Johan Auwerx, Professor at the EPFL School of Life Sciences, has been awarded this year’s Marcel Benoist Prize for his work on mitochondria and their role in the metabolism. Swiss President Johann N. Schneider-Ammann welcomed him to Bern today.

Johan Auwerx conducts research into the role played by the metabolism in health, aging and disease. 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. 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. Described as "ground-breaking" by the Marcel Benoist Foundation, his discoveries also help doctors to tailor medical treatments to the personal profile of the patient.

According to the Foundation, Johan Auwerx has been awarded the 2016 Marcel Benoist Prize "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."

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.

The official ceremony to award the Marcel Benoist Prize will be held at the ETH Lausanne on 31 October 2016. Established in 1920, the award, which includes a cash prize of CHF 50,000, has honoured scientists based in Switzerland who have made important scientific discoveries that are of significance for human life. Over the course of its almost hundred-year history, 10 laureates have gone on to win a Nobel Prize. The board of the Marcel Benoist Foundation comprises representatives from both federal institutes of technology and Switzerland’s ten cantonal universities.