Fields of expertise
Our laboratory is using systems approaches to map the signalling networks that govern mitochondrial function and as such regulate organismal metabolism in health, aging and disease. We apply a state-of-the-art biological toolkit to study a variety of model systems, ranging from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, over the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the mouse all the way to humans. Our research has not only allowed the development of new methodologies and scientific approaches, as exemplified by the development of cross-species multi-layered genetics/omics gene mapping strategies, but also contributed to improved understanding of how signaling pathways control mitochondrial function and metabolism. Although our research addresses basic biomedical questions, my medical background facilitates the translation of our research into novel preventive and therapeutic strategies for common diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, frailty, and obesity, as well as rare inherited mitochondrial diseases. The translational value of our work is testified by the fact that several drugs targeting proceesses and pathways which we elucidated are currently used in the clinic.
Johan Auwerx is Professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he occupies the Nestle Chair in Energy Metabolism. Dr. Auwerx has been using molecular physiology and systems genetics to understand metabolism in health, aging and disease. Much of his work focused on understanding how diet, exercise and hormones control metabolism through changing the expression of genes by altering the activity of transcription factors and their associated cofactors. His work was instrumental for the development of agonists of nuclear receptors - a particular class of transcription factors - into drugs, which now are used to treat high blood lipid levels, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Auwerx was amongst the first to recognize that transcriptional cofactors, which fine-tune the activity of transcription factors, act as energy sensors/effectors that influence metabolic homeostasis. His research validated these cofactors as novel targets to treat metabolic diseases, and spurred the clinical use of natural compounds, such as resveratrol, as modulators of these cofactor pathways.
Johan Auwerx was elected as a member of EMBO in 2003 and is the recipient of a dozen of international scientific prizes, including the Danone International Nutrition Award, the Oskar Minkowski Prize, and the Morgagni Gold Medal. His work is highly cited by his peers with a h-factor of over 100. He is an editorial board member of several journals, including Cell Metabolism, Molecular Systems Biology, The EMBO Journal, Journal of Cell Biology, Cell, and Science. Dr. Auwerx co-founded a handful of biotech companies, including Carex, PhytoDia, and most recently Mitobridge, and has served on several scientific advisory boards.
Dr. Auwerx received both his MD and PhD in Molecular Endocrinology at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium. He was a post-doctoral research fellow in the Departments of Medicine and Genetics of the University of Washington in Seattle.