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Kopchick awarded British Society for Endocrinology’s Transatlantic Medal


In 1989, a team of researchers led by Ohio University’s 
John Kopchick, Ph.D, discovered a compound that blocks the normal action of growth hormone. It was this finding that led to the development of a globally marketed drug as well as dozens of collaborations between Kopchick and endocrinologists around the world.

Today that scientific breakthrough ― and 22 years of groundbreaking research since then ― have produced something else for Kopchick: international recognition from the British Society for Endocrinology. The group, one of the world’s most prestigious endocrine societies, awarded him its Transatlantic Medal earlier this year. The medal is given annually to a North American who has made significant contributions to the discipline that focuses on hormones.

“His story is a truly inspirational example of translational medicine ― the application of basic science discovery through to a new clinical drug that is improving the lives of many patients,” said Paul Stewart, M.D., dean of medicine at the United Kingdom’s University of Birmingham and a supporter of Kopchick’s nomination for the award. “Very few individuals achieve such rewards in their scientific careers.”

Kopchick, Goll Ohio Professor of Molecular Biology in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Edison Biotechnology Institute, said he was deeply honored to receive the medal. He joins a list of respected winners of the award since its inception in 1979, when the society created it as a way to promote connections between endocrinologists in North America and the United Kingdom.

In April Kopchick traveled to the society’s annual conference in Birmingham, England, to receive the award and to give a plenary lecture in its honor. His talk described how he and his colleagues developed transgenic mice that have either an abundance or lack of growth hormone, a substance produced by the pituitary gland that promotes normal body growth and development.

Working with the genetically modified animals, Kopchick made the seminal discovery that led to the development of Somavert®, the commercially successful clinical drug launched in 2003. The medicine is used to treat acromegaly, a medical condition that causes abnormal growth of organs and bones in about 40,000 adults worldwide. That initial finding also paved the way for the scientist’s numerous other research projects, including those related to cancer treatment, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, aging and even performance-enhancing drugs in athletes.

Kopchick’s influence in the field of endocrinology goes beyond his own research using the mice as well. Scientists and clinicians around the globe use the animals for endocrinology studies on issues such as dwarfism or the effect of growth hormone on muscle or bone. A Birmingham scientist that Kopchick met at the UK conference, Stuart Morgan, Ph.D., is even set to visit OHIO in September to work with them for a month.

“Our mouse models are of two types: ones that have too little growth hormone ― they’re dwarf ― or others that have too much growth hormone, and they’re giant,” Kopchick explained. “But it’s not just the outward phenotype, the small dwarf or the large giant, but the consequences of that, the physiology behind it that people want to study.”

It’s this dedication to continued research that makes Kopchick the world-leading scientist that he is, said Stewart, himself a well-known endocrinologist with more than 250 original research papers to his name.

“In typical fashion, John is far from complacent and continues to evaluate the role of growth hormone and metabolic signals in the ageing process,” Stewart said, emphasizing the honor of receiving Transatlantic Medal. “It is awarded only to the very best.”

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Last updated: 01/28/2016