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Heritage College researcher honored by Danish university

September 30, 2015

One of the world’s most prestigious universities has bestowed an honorary doctoral degree in medicine on John Kopchick, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and at the Edison Biotechnology Institute at Ohio University.

Kopchick, one of the world’s top experts on growth hormone and associated growth factors, is one of four researchers who received honorary Ph.D.s from Aarhus University in Denmark on Sept. 9. Though Kopchick has received honorary degrees from other universities, he said he was still deeply honored to be recognized by Aarhus, which is counted among the top 100 universities in the world in a number of influential rankings.

“Getting this award was a big, big honor,” Kopchick said, and one that was enhanced by his long, friendly and productive collaboration with Aarhus scientists and students.

Kopchick’s connection to Aarhus dates from the mid-1990s and includes important collaborations with researchers Jens Otto Jorgensen and Jens Sandahl Christiansen, both clinical professors at the Aarhus Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes.

In 1989, Kopchick developed the first-ever specific growth hormone antagonist, which became the basis of a drug now prescribed under the name Somavert to treat acromegaly or gigantism. Kopchick noted that Christiansen and Jorgensen were among the first scientists who conducted the human clinical trials of the drug.

Kopchick said he has been involved in multiple research collaborations with Jorgensen and Christiansen as well as other scientists and students from Aarhus, focused on “trying to understand the mechanisms by which growth hormone works”. To date, the collaboration has resulted in nine jointly published papers, three patents and a grant from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). As part of this ongoing partnership, Aarhus and Ohio University have shared student and faculty researchers back and forth.

Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., called Kopchick a marvelous asset to the institution. “John’s work has brought so much prestige to the college and for the best reasons – it not only expands our knowledge, but its clinical applications have had a huge positive impact on patients,” Johnson said. “He’s truly a world-class researcher, and it’s great to see that being recognized by an institution as esteemed as Aarhus University.”

Darlene Berryman, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., who serves as executive director of The Diabetes Institute at Ohio University and holds a joint appointment at the Heritage College and the College of Health Sciences and Professions, has worked with Kopchick for 14 years. She calls him a valued mentor, whose support has been invaluable in helping her to develop her own research interests at the college.

Berryman has described Kopchick as “the ultimate ambassador for Ohio University and its various initiatives,” who “instills his contagious enthusiasm in all scientists, whether at the beginning of their career or beyond, to make a difference for the greater good.”

Kopchick has published 292 peer-reviewed articles in internationally recognized journals and holds 35 patents. In 2012, he was named distinguished professor at Ohio University. He also has served as president of the Growth Hormone Research Society, an international body with over 400 members from more than 30 countries.

Kopchick earned a B.Sc. in biology in 1972 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, followed by an M.Sc. in 1975 from the same institution, and a Ph.D. in 1980 in virology and biomedical sciences from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas System Cancer Center, M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, Houston.

In addition to serving as Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Kopchick directs the Growth, Diabetes and Obesity Section of the Edison Biotechnology Institute, Konneker Research Laboratories, at Ohio University.

In 2014, he and his wife Char Kopchick, assistant dean of students for campus involvement at Ohio University, committed $2 million in support of academic programs as part of the university’s The Promise Lives Campaign – a contribution that put the Campaign over its $450 million fundraising goal.

A short video on Kopchick’s recognition by Aarhus University can be viewed at

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