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The road to new therapy options using TNF blockers: The winners of the Paul Ehrlich- and Ludwig Darmstaedter-Award 2018 present their research results at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut

Professor David Wallach and Professor Anthony Cerami, this year's winners of the Paul Ehrlich- and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award, continued the tradition and accepted the annual invitation to the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI) to present their research work prior to the official award ceremony in a scientific colloquium. They performed research on a messenger substance, the so-called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and its cell receptors.

03 / 2018

From left to right: Prof. David Wallach, Prof. Klaus Cichutek (President of the PEI), Prof. Anthony Cerami.From left to right: Prof. David Wallach, Prof. Klaus Cichutek (President of the PEI), Prof. Anthony Cerami. Source: PEI

David Wallach (72) of the Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and Anthony Cerami (77), founder of the Araim Pharmaceutics in the state of New York, USA are researchers working on TNF. The substance is a multifunctional messenger of the immune system which plays an important role in chronic inflammations and autoimmune diseases.

In the 1980s, Cerami discovered that TNF triggers inflammations and plays a role in the development of autoimmune diseases. Wallach discovered the two receptors of the tumour necrosis factor on the cell surface and decoded their signal transmission to the interior of the cells. Binding to the receptor leads to either programmed cell death or survival of the cell.

These discoveries paved the way to treating of autoimmune diseases by means of TNF inhibition. Cerami's work permits the development of neutralising antibodies against TNF while Wallach's research has led to a therapeutic method based on a soluble form of the receptor.

TNF inhibition has now become one of the major therapeutic principles in medicine for which a broad spectrum of medicinal products is available. With their research work, Wallach and Cerami have contributed to developing new treatment options for autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn's disease.

"Without biomedicines such as monoclonal antibodies, some of which are targeted against the messenger substance TNF, the treatment of many autoimmune diseases would hardly be thinkable. For this reason, research such as that performed by Professor Wallach and Professor Cerami is valuable and indispensable, which is why the two researchers are justifiably honoured with the Paul Ehrlich- and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award this year", said Professor Klaus Chichutek, president of the PEI.

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The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, the Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines, in Langen near Frankfurt/Main is a senior federal authority reporting to the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, BMG). It is responsible for the research, assessment, and marketing authorisation of biomedicines for human use and immunological veterinary medicinal products. Its remit also includes the authorisation of clinical trials and pharmacovigilance, i.e. recording and evaluation of potential adverse effects.

Other duties of the institute include official batch control, scientific advice and inspections. In-house experimental research in the field of biomedicines and life science form an indispensable basis for the manifold tasks performed at the institute.

The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, with its roughly 800 members of staff, also has advisory functions nationally (federal government, federal states (Länder)), and internationally (World Health Organisation, European Medicines Agency, European Commission, Council of Europe etc.).

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