Nutritionist Professor Johan Auwerx wins the 2016 Marcel Benoist Prize

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Bern, 27.09.2016 - Johan Auwerx, Professor at the ETH Lausanne (EPFL), has been awarded this year’s Marcel Benoist Prize for his work on mitochondria and their role in the metabolism. He has made significant findings on how nutrients interact with the cells of the body and trigger certain reactions such as breaking down fat cells and preventing metabolic disorders. His findings have greatly helped to improve quality of life and have enabled appropriate preventive measures and therapies to be applied at an early stage. Swiss President Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, who chairs the Marcel Benoist Foundation, welcomed Professor Johan Auwerx to Bern today to congratulate him on receiving this important honour.

Professor Johan Auwerx conducts research into the role played by the metabolism in health, aging and disease. For many years, it has been known that many foodstuffs, such as pomegranates, grapes and milk, can have a positive effect on health. It seems that food can do more than simply supply the body with energy. 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. Professor 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. His ground-breaking discoveries also help doctors to tailor medical treatments to the personal profile of the patient.

Professor 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. He is one of the world’s most highly regarded researchers in the field of molecular physiology and the organic metabolism. In addition, as a mentor, he has successfully passed on his expertise to numerous young researchers.

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. He also has a seat on various scientific bodies, and has been a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) since 2003.

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.
Address for enquiries

Dani Duttweiler,
Secretary of the Marcel Benoist Foundation, State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation SERI,
Tel. +41 58 462 45 60,
dani.duttweiler [at] sbfi.admin (p) ch


Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research


  • Fact sheet
  • Preisträger Prof. Johan Auwerx (JPG, 1 MB)
  • Begrüssung des Preisträger Prof. Johan Auwerx (JPG, 1 MB)
  • Bundespräsident mit Preisträger Prof. Johan Auwerx (JPG, 1 MB)

Last modification 05.01.2016

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