Rheumatologist Smolen and chemical biologist Waldmann awarded honorary doctorates by Leiden University

At the next Dies Natalis, on 7 February 2014, Austrian rheumatologist Josef Smolen and German chemical biologist Herbert Waldmann will both be awarded an honorary doctorate from Leiden University. Both are influential figures in the field of healthcare.

Breakthrough in treatment and prognosis

Jozef Smolen is an incredibly productive scientist who has made an impressive contribution to rheumatology. He investigated the role of TNF (tumour necrosis factor) in joint damage and inflammations. He was also involved from the start in developing TNF-blocking therapies. These formed a breakthrough in the treatment and prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis and later also of other inflammatory diseases such as uveitis and the diseases of Crohn and Bechterew.

New life in the European rheumatology association

Josef Smolen

Josef Smolen

The Viennese rheumatologist also breathed new life into the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), which led to a better classification of rheumatological disorders, treatment guidelines and common European research, for instance in the context of the European Framework Programmes. Researchers from the LUMC play an active and in some cases a leading role in these programmes. Smolen is the chairman of the Department of Rheumatology and Department of Medicine 3 of the Viennese university medical centre, and he is vice chairman of the Center for Rheumatic Diseases at the Hietzing Hospital, also in Vienna. His Honorary Supervisor on 7 February is Professor Tom Huizinga.

New direction in drug research

Herbert Waldmann

Herbert Waldmann

The other Honorary Doctor, Herbert Waldmann, is a scientist of equally impressive stature. He instigated a paradigm shift in drug research when the development of new drugs had reached a dead end in the 1980s. Waldmann concluded that the majority of successful drugs were derived from natural products. However, this source was becoming depleted. He then decided to focus his research on synthesizing molecules that contained the properties of natural products. His concept is by now well-established, and he has many followers.

Introduction in laboratories

Via his Chemical Genomics Centre he was able to introduce the academic chemical biological approach to commercial pharmaceutical laboratories at an early stage. Waldmann’s concept also forms the basis for the European Lead Factory that opened earlier this year, and that synthesises new chemical compounds. The project involves fifteen academic groups, including some from Leiden, and five companies specialising in the field of organic synthesis. The new compounds are tested in the Pivot Park Oss on various biological targets.

Waldmann is head of the Department of Chemical Biology of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund and Professor of Biochemistry at the Technical University of Dortmund. His Honorary Supervisor at the Dies is Professor Hermen Overkleeft.

(13 November 2013 )

See also

Studying in Leiden



Last Modified: 15-01-2014