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A patient’s biological sex and/or social gender is usually a neglected factor in biomedical research. Yet in order to understand differences in the emergence and progression of diseases and to develop suitable treatments, it is important for such research to take sex and gender differences into account. BIH therefore promotes top-level researchers who incorporate gender aspects into their basic and/or clinical research.

In early December, a jury of international experts selected two winners from the pool of internationally renowned applicants who stood out with their different research approaches.

Professor Louise Pilote from McGill University and from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal, Canada, is one of the few physicians to have specialized in social gender differences in cardiovascular research. To date, most research approaches have focused exclusively on biological sex differences, neglecting the impact of cultural gender roles. Pilote considers these criteria in her research, using a “gender score” she developed to investigate the possible effects of gender differences when it comes to medical issues such as cardiovascular diseases and to develop therapeutic approaches.

The research conducted by neurologist Professor Rhonda Voskuhl of the University of California, USA, stands out through its strong translational focus or, in other words, its focus on transferring basic and clinical research into medical practice. Voskuhl investigates biological sex differences in chronic degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. She researches molecular mechanisms in preclinical studies and uses the findings to develop gender-specific biomarkers for new approaches to treatment.

“Gender differences are hugely important research factors in personalized medicine. With this award, we want to draw attention to this fact and encourage gender aspects to become more firmly anchored in research,” says Professor Martin Lohse, spokesperson of the BIH Executive Board and Chair of the Board of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). “Professor Pilote and Professor Voskuhl are two outstanding scientists and pioneers in gender medicine, whose groundbreaking translational research will enhance joint projects at BIH, MDC, and Charité.”

Both award winners already have close contacts and research partnerships planned in Berlin. To secure their expertise for Berlin-based research in the long-term, Pilote and Voskuhl will be recommended for a Stiftung Charité funding program. The two winning scientists will equally share the €20,000 award, which they can use to support future research activities.

About the award

The first call for applications for the BIH Excellence Award for Sex and Gender Aspects in Health Research was announced in summer 2017. A total of 16 researchers from eight countries, including the United States, Israel, and Sweden, submitted applications.

The jury consisted of the following professors:

  • Prof. Margarethe Hochleitner, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria, Professor of Gender Medicine, Director of the Women’s Health Office
  • Prof. Karolina Kublickiene, Associate Professor Karolinska Institutet Institution for Clinical Science, Intervention & Technology, Head of the Doctoral Programme in Development and Regeneration (DEVREG) and Gendered Innovation Alliance
  • Prof. Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, Radboud University Nimwegen, Netherlands, Professor of Gender in Primary and Transmural Care
  • Prof. Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, Director of the Institute of Gender in Medicine (GiM), Professor of Women’s Health Research with an emphasis on cardiovascular diseases
  • Prof. Londa Schiebinger, Stanford University, USA, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science, Director of Graduate Studies
  • Prof. Alan White, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom, Emeritus Professor of Men’s Health

The award ceremony will be held March 16, 2018, in Berlin during the BIH Symposium 2018.

Louise Pilote (top) and Rhonda Voskuhl (bottom) are the winners of the BIH Excellence Award for Sex and Gender Aspects in Health Research.


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