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Penn microbiologist awarded Science and SciLife Lab Grand Prize for Young Scientists

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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Credit: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

PHILADFELPHIA - Christoph Thaiss, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the Science & SciLife Lab Grand Prize for Young Scientists. An essay by Thaiss on his body of research to date, published in Science this week, is part of his recognition. Thaiss' work addresses how the gut microbiome influences metabolic disease, and in turn, how a better understanding of this complex relationship can be applied to human biology, which he is actively pursuing at Penn.

Thaiss, who was recruited to Penn in early 2018 directly after completing his doctorate, has already made seminal contributions to his field. He discovered that the activity of the gut microbiome fluctuates on a 24-hour cycle, and that disturbances in these microbial oscillations can be linked to such metabolic disorders as obesity and high blood sugar.

In addition, he identified that the microbiome associated with obesity has "memory-like" properties, which can predispose animal models of obesity to weight regain after initial weight loss. He also found that high blood sugar directly causes the cells lining the gut to become more "leaky," which allows "bad" bacteria to enter once-safe areas of the gut. This sets off an out-of-place inflammatory response. His research in these mouse models is paving the way to prevent or treat metabolic disorders in people by altering the composition and function of the microbiome.

Thaiss received a BS from the University of Bonn, Germany, in 2010 and an MS in Immunology and Microbiology from Yale University and ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2012. He completed his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, in 2017.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital - the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

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