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Anna Köttgen

For her outstanding scientific achievements, Prof. Dr. Anna Köttgen, director of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology at Freiburg University Medical Center, has received the Landesforschungspreis, or State Research Prize, for basic research. The prize is endowed with 100,000 euros and is awarded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK) every other year, alternating with the Landeslehrpreis [State Teaching Prize].

From major population studies, Anna Köttgen obtains genetic information that she combines with clinical and molecular data to research kidney and metabolism disorders. Her interdisciplinary team combines experts from bioinformatics, statistics, genetics and nephrology. The Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts highlighted that the Landesforschungspreis jury had been especially impressed by her knowledge of the genetic principles of kidney diseases and gout, her output of publications and her involvement in national and international research associations – some in a leading role. “I congratulate my colleague Anna Köttgen warmly about her award,” says Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein, rector of the University of Freiburg, “The fact that she is receiving this renowned award at such an early stage in her research career is remarkable testimony to the strength of her scientific work.”

Since 2017 Anna Köttgen has been the director of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology at Freiburg University Medical Center. Amongst other things, her research focuses on the genetic principles of gout – the commonest form of inflammatory arthritis, which affects about 900,000 people throughout Germany. The disease is caused by an increased concentration of uric acid in the blood which produces painful inflammations in joints. The scientist’s analyses have shown that, depending on their genetic make-up, the risk of gout can be about one hundred times higher in some individuals than others. Together with her team she has identified 183 locations int the genome that influence the levels of uric acid in the blood. “Because there is a significant genetic influence on the uric acid level, we can contribute with our research to deciphering the underlying mechanisms. In addition it can be highly worthwhile to know one’s risk of diseases such as gout early on,” stresses Köttgen. “So people with a hereditary predisposition can take preventive steps before a disease occurs.”

Köttgen is also the coordinator for the collaborative research center (CRC) 1453 ‘Nephrogenetics (NephGen)’, which was re-approved by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [German Research Foundation, DFG] in November 2020. Over the next four years the CRC will be dedicated to searching out the mechanisms of kidney disease using genetic information. Roughly one in ten adults suffers from a chronic kidney disease. If it progresses to renal failure then routine dialysis or even receiving a donor organ are the only possible treatments. Then there are those with renal cancer. “With NephGen we want to use genetic kidney diseases to identify suitable target structures in the cells that are relevant to the disease,” the researcher explains, “We hope that this will enable the search for appropriate candidates for pharmaceutical drugs and improve treatment and prevention of kidney diseases in the long term.”