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Paola Chiesi awarded honorary doctorate by Karolinska Institutet

Published on: 15/05/19

Paolo Chiesi, Vice President of the Chiesi Group, has been made an Honorary Doctor at the Karolinska Institutet – a research led medical university in Stockholm, Sweden.

Chiesi has been awarded an honorary degree in recognition of his long-standing commitment to the treatment of lung conditions in premature babies.

The ceremony, held in Blue Hall in Stockholm (the venue in which the annual Nobel Ceremony is held), took place on 10 May.

The title of Honorary Doctor at the Karolinska Institutet (KI) is given to graduates who have done great work for science, humanity or those who have supported research and development within KI's sphere of interest but have not received a doctorate.

Chiesi was given his honorary degree in recognition of his work relating to the development of Curosurf (poractant alfa) – a treatment for babies with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).

While most babies are born with a substance in their lungs known as ‘surfactant’ (which lines the lungs and stops them from sticking together and so makes normal breathing possible) some babies, particularly premature babies, do not have enough of this surfactant when they are born, which causes RDS.

Tore Curstedt and Bengt Robertson managed to extract surfactant from pigs’ lungs and created ’Curosurf’ (Cu as in Curstedt, Ro as in Robertson and surf as in surfactant). Poractant alfa is a natural surfactant, which works in the same way as a baby’s own surfactant would have done and, therefore, helps a baby to breathe normally until he or she produces his or her own surfactant.

After the initial proof of concept, Chiesi Farmaceutici and Paulo Chiesi chose to invest in the project thus helping to develop the drug.

As of now, more than four million babies have been treated with poractant alfa, which is available in 97 countries around the world.

“I am very honoured to receive this award from one of the world's most prestigious and respected medical universities. This is also a great opportunity to meet again in Stockholm some of the most prominent researchers I worked with in the 80s. Our co-operation has continued over the years and we have become close friends over time,” Chiesi said.

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