European Respiratory Society (ERS) Awards Annual COPD Research Prize

Boehringer IngelheimDuring its official award ceremony, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) announced this year's recipient of the Society's award for research in the field of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Dr. Hendrika Marian (Marike) Boezen, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. The ERS Research Award acknowledges the work of engaged scientists active in pulmonology research. The prize, 50.000 Euros to be used for scientific research projects in the field of COPD, is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, a leading international pharmaceutical company committed to research since its foundation in 1885.

The prize goes to Professor Boezen for the project "Genetics of (non)smoking-related COPD: extreme accelerated FEV 1 decline and/or developed COPD in never-smoking subjects and identification of environmental exposures".

COPD is characterized by chronic airway obstruction and impaired lung function and permanent and progressive symptoms like cough and breathlessness. COPD is a major cause of death throughout the world and its morbidity and mortality is still increasing. While smoking is the major risk factor for its development, genetic susceptibility is suggested to also play a determining role in the development of the disease. Thus, the concept of the genetically 'susceptible smoker' has been put forward by Professor Boezen, i.e. a person who develops COPD upon smoking, whereas other smokers do not develop COPD. The huge socio-economic burden of the disease and lack of knowledge on the origins of the 'susceptible smokers' led to Professor Boezen and her team to perform candidate studies in large population cohorts, followed by GWAS *) and studies investigating the relation of genetics to protein expression in association with biopsy findings in COPD patients. Apart from confirmation of the concept of the genetically susceptible smoker, Boezen also observed genetic effects on lung function decline that were independent of the effect of smoking.

Marike Boezen completed her PhD in 1998 at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, where she worked together with Prof. Dr. Dirkje S. Postma. She also holds MSc degrees in Human movement sciences (Faculty of Medicine, University of Groningen) and in Epidemiology (Faculty of Medicine, Free University Amsterdam). Her research is embedded in the Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC) that she leads as programme director since 2008 at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), University of Groningen.

In addition to her membership with the ERS, Professor Boezen has interdisciplinary collaborations with a number of established scientific groups in Europe and the USA and is also author of numerous scientific publications.

"It was not an easy task to select a winner amongst all the valuable scientific contributions. On behalf of the ERS Scientific Committee, I thank all candidates for dedicating their time to improving current knowledge of COPD, a complex disease which in spite of being a leading cause of death remains highly underdiagnosed," said Professor Laurent P. Nicod, ERS Scientific Committee Chair. "In particular, we congratulate the awardee, Marike Boezen, who together with her research group has made an important contribution to better understanding the impact of specific environmental exposures other than active smoking in COPD patients. Her ongoing research might lead to identification of different genetic variants playing a role in disease onset, as well as the onset of impaired lung function, suggesting that genetic factors distinct from those involved in the onset of smoking-related COPD may determine non-smoking-related COPD."

"The originality and scientific relevance of all applications again gives the ERS Scientific Committee reason to continue the COPD Research Award, and we extend our thanks to Boehringer Ingelheim, a leader in the research and treatment of COPD, for making this possible. I very much look forward to receiving the same high-level quality of applications for the 2012 award," Professor Nicod added.

European members of the ERS up to age 45 are eligible to apply for the award. The official online application form can be found on the ERS website The deadline for applications is February 23, 2012. Selection of the successful candidates will be made by the Scientific Committee of the ERS and announced at the 2012 ERS Annual Congress.

* Genome-Wide Association Studies

About The European Respiratory Society
ERS was founded in London in 1990 from the merger of the Societas Europaea Physiologiae Clinicae Respoiratoriae (SEPCR, founded 1966) with the European Society of Pneumology (SEP, founded 1981), it is unique in bringing together basic science with clinical practice within a single entity. With membership now standing at some 10,000 and increasing, the secret to ERS’ phenomenal growth has been vision, a commitment to excellence, inspired leadership, the dedication, and the loyalty and active role played by its members in over 100 countries. ERS seeks to alleviate suffering from respiratory disease and promote lung health through research, sharing of knowledge and through medical and public education.

About Boehringer Ingelheim
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 42,000 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.

As a central element of its culture, Boehringer Ingelheim pledges to act socially responsible. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim's endeavors.

In 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of about 12.6 billion euro while spending almost 24% of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on research and development.

Most relevant related papers resulting from Boezen's research line:
1. van Diemen C, Postma D, Siedlinski M, Blokstra A, Smit H, Boezen H. Genetic variation in TIMP1 but not MMPs predict excess FEV1 decline in two general population-based cohorts. Respir Res. 2011 Apr 27;12(1):57.
2. Boezen HM. Genome-wide association studies: what do they teach us about asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2009 Dec;6(8):701-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 20008879.
3. Van Diemen CC, Postma DS, Aulchenko YS, Snijders PJLM, Oostra BA, Van Duijn CM, Boezen HM. Novel strategy to identify genetic risk factors for COPD severity: a  genetic isolate. Eur Respir J 2010 Apr;35(4):768-75.
4. Siedlinski M, Postma DS, Boer JMA, Van der Steege G, Schouten JP, Smit HA, Boezen HM. Level and course of FEV1 in relation to polymorphisms in NFE2L2 and KEAP1 in the general population. Resp Res 2009;10:73.
5. Smolonska J, Wijmenga C, Postma DS, Boezen HM. Meta-analyses on Suspected COPD Genes - A Summary of 20 Years' Research. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2009; 180: 618-31.
6. Siedlinski M, van Diemen CC, Postma DS, Vonk JM, Boezen HM. Superoxide dismutases, lung function and bronchial responsiveness in a general population. Eur Respir J 2009;33:986-92.
7. Siedlinski M, Postma DS, Smit HA, Boezen HM. No effects of EPHX1 polymorphisms on the level or change of FEV1 in the general population. Eur Respir J 2008;33:446-9.
8. Siedlinski M, Postma DS, van Diemen CC, Boezen HM. Heme oxygenase 1 variations and lung function decline in smokers - proof of replication. J Med Genet 2008;45:400.
9. Siedlinski M, Postma DS, van Diemen CC, van der Bij W, Smit HA, Boezen HM. Lung function loss, smoking, vitamine C intake and polymorphisms of the glutamate-cysteine ligase genes. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2008;178:13-9.
10.Van Diemen CC, Postma DS, Vonk JM, Bruinenberg M, Nolte IM, Boezen HM. Decorin and TGF-beta1 polymorphisms and development of COPD in a general population. Respir Res 2006;7:89.
11.Van Diemen CC, Postma DS, Vonk JM, Bruinenberg M, Schouten JP, Boezen HM. A Desintegrin and Metalloprotease 33 polymorphisms and lung function decline in the population. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005;172:329-333.