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Heinrich Wieland Prize 2007 awarded to Joachim Herz for uncovering novel functions for lipoprotein receptors

Ingelheim and Munich/Germany, 26 October 2007 - Prof. Joachim Herz, M.D., from the Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (USA), received this year’s Heinrich Wieland Prize for his exceptional work on lipoprotein receptors. Today, Prof. Konrad Sandhoff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, presented the award and the prize money of EUR 50,000 to the scientist in a ceremony at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, Germany.

Lipoprotein receptors are key regulators of cholesterol and lipid metabolism. Among those are two types of receptors, the low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and LDL-receptor-related proteins (LRPs).

Joachim Herz discovered LRP1, the first in the group of LRP receptors. LRP1 plays an important role in the uptake of lipids from food during digestion. LRP1 (scientifically named ‘chylomicron remnant receptor’) is a molecular structure which has been postulated for a long time and has now been identified and further characterized by Joachim Herz.

His laboratory uncovered novel and essential functions for lipoprotein receptors that reach beyond the mere transport of lipids and cholesterol across cell membranes: This class of lipoprotein receptors is involved in lipid metabolism, signal transduction and the development of organs. They can also defend vessels against atherosclerosis. Interestingly, the genes encoding those receptors appeared in their modern form already in ancient, most primitive multi-cellular organisms, which lack even rudimentary circulatory systems.

“In the tradition of the Heinrich Wieland Prize, we have again awarded excellent basic research in accordance with our key principle, to provide value through innovation.”, said Dr Andreas Barner, Vice Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors and Head of Research, Development and Medicine at Boehringer Ingelheim, “Joachim Herz has demonstrated successfully how basic research in the area of lipoproteins can widen the scientific horizon in an area where much seems to be known, but still scientific progress is urgently needed to improve the therapeutic options patients and physicians have.”

“I am delighted to be the laureate of the Heinrich Wieland Prize in 2007 - this is a very pleasant surprise”, commented Prof. Joachim Herz. ”We hope that with further research we will have much more detailed information of how Lipoprotein Receptors integrate Lipid Metabolism and Organ Development”, he added.

Heinrich Wieland Prize

The Heinrich Wieland Prize is named after the German Nobel prize-winner Prof. Heinrich Otto Wieland (1877-1957). Heinrich Wieland was a cousin of Helene Boehringer, the wife of Albert Boehringer, who was the founder of Boehringer Ingelheim. From 1915 to the end of 1920, he was advisor at Boehringer Ingelheim and during this time he established the first scientific department of the company. Since 1964, the Heinrich Wieland Prize has been awarded annually to promote research on chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and clinical medicine of lipids and related substances. The prize is among the most treasured international science awards and has a successful history of over 40 years. To date it has been presented to 59 scientists. The Heinrich Wieland Prize is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and awarded by an independent Board of Trustees.

Boehringer Ingelheim

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 137 affiliates in 47 countries and 38,400 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

In 2006, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of 10.6 billion euro while spending one fifth of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on research and development.

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