Professor Dr Dr h.c. Matthias H. Tschöp, Heinrich Wieland Laureate 2023

Professor Dr Dr Matthias H. Tschöp, Helmholtz Munich/TUM, Munich, Germany (© Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung)

Helmholtz Munich & Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany


Matthias Tschöp receives the 2023 Heinrich Wieland Prize for his seminal discoveries of the first highly effective drugs against human obesity. As a physician-scientist, he embarked on a mission to discover effective therapeutics for obesity and identified the hunger hormone: Ghrelin. This breakthrough revealed a fundamental metabolic control signal. Recognizing that one signal would not be sufficient to effectively reverse obesity, Matthias Tschöp then started to combine several hormone action profiles into single hybrid molecules. Together with the chemist Richard DiMarchi, he created dual and triple hormone-like peptides by strategically choosing specific amino acids from a pool of metabolically active gut hormones (e.g. GIP, GLP-1, Glucagon) as well as adding modifications to increase half-life, stability and solubility. The result was a new class of therapeutics, offering unprecedented levels of metabolic benefits and weight loss in obesity. Tschöp and DiMarchi then validated the first types of these poly-agonists in rodent and primate models and led the very first clinical tests. Today, numerous pharmaceutical companies are advancing versions of these co-agonists through clinical trials. The FDA-approved first representative of this drug class, Tirzepatide (“Mounjaro”, Eli Lilly & Co), already achieves an average weight loss of 22.5% in human obesity and delivers unprecedented benefits in diabetes. In aggregate, Matthias Tschöp pioneered a new era of metabolic medicine: For the first time, human obesity can be effectively treated, significantly reducing the risk for diabetes and enabling the reversal of a global pandemic.

Academic Career

Matthias Tschöp, MD, trained at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. After a research fellowship at Eli Lilly (Indianapolis, USA, 1999-2002), he started his own laboratory at German Institute of Human Nutrition (Potsdam, 2002-2003). At the University of Cincinnati (USA, 2003-2011) he advanced to Research Director and Endowed Chair of Medicine. He then was jointly recruited back to Germany by Helmholtz Center and Technical University of Munich, where he holds an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. Today he is also CEO of Helmholtz Center Munich and Vice President of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. Multiple awards include the Erwin Schrödinger Prize, Paul Martini Prize, Outstanding Scientific Achievement Awards by the American Diabetes Association and Obesity Society, Carus Medal of the German National Academy (Leopoldina), Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine, and the Banting Medal of the American Diabetes Association. He holds an adjunct professorship at Yale University and an Honorary Doctorate at Leipzig University. Matthias Tschöp is an elected member of the German, Bavarian, and European Academies of Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians.

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