Meet Professor Mirjam Christ-Crain, expert on vasopressin & ECE 2019 Award Winner


 Meet Professor Mirjam Christ-Crain, who has been awarded the European Journal of Endocrinology Award. She is Deputy Head of the Endocrine Clinic and Head of the Department of Clinical Research at the University Hospital of Basel. Her research focuses on vasopressin-dependent disorders of fluid homeostasis and she will be delivering her Award Lecture at ECE 2019, 18 - 21 May in Lyon.

Tell us about your career in endocrinology?

I started my career in endocrinology in 2001 at the University Hospital in Basel in Switzerland, where I first worked as research fellow and then as clinical fellow. My research at that time was about subclinical hypothyroidism (in the team of Prof. Jean-Jacques Staub) and then about procalcitonin (in the team of Professor Beat Müller). Professor Müller was my first mentor, awaking my passion for research and motivating me to pursue an academic career. After the “Basel” years I went to St.Bartholomew’s Hospital in London to do a PhD in the lab of Professor Ashley Grossman and Professor Marta Korbonits, who taught me about experimental research and aroused my passion for pituitary diseases and research.

I love to combine clinical work and research, and after my return to Switzerland, I built up my own research group in neuroendocrinology, focusing on vasopressin-dependent disorders of fluid homeostasis.

What are you presenting at ECE 2019?

I am presenting my last 5 years of research about new diagnostic procedures in the diagnosis and differential diagnosis of diabetes insipidus.

What has been your most surprising finding?

There are many surprising findings in research, how boring would it be if all findings were predictable! Just yesterday, when unblinding a randomised, placebo-controlled trial, the finding was very surprising (fortunately in a positive way). But I can’t yet tell you what it was, it’s a surprise that will be revealed in our presentation at ECE! Julie Refardt is the lead author on the study about a new treatment option in patients with the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuresis.

What are you looking forward to at ECE 2019 and what would you recommend to others?

I look forward to an interesting and exciting program with many symposia and Meet the Expert sessions, within many different topics in endocrinology. I am also looking forward to the opening ceremony and to the award lectures. Besides the scientific parts, I will really enjoy inviting my whole research group out for champagne and dinner. They have worked with me for many years, and this award is not only for me but for all of them too. The ECE congress is always a team meeting for our group, where we spend valuable time together, to gather new ideas and have fruitful discussions.

What has been your proudest professional experience so far?

The publication of our data about copeptin in the differential diagnosis of diabetes insipidus in the New England Journal of Medicine made me very proud. It was a lot of work, for many years, and in many centres within Europe and also Brazil, without much funding.

It always makes me proud if young fellows from my research group are successful, especially when I realise that I was able to get them excited about research. I am proud that I was able to attract wonderful young people to my research group. I think it is most important to motivate young colleagues in research and show them how exciting it can be!

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area right now?

There are many challenges in hyponatremia from the differential diagnosis to the treatment but I think the biggest challenge is to establish whether hyponatremia itself is leading to mortality, or whether this is just an association. There is a need for large, randomised controlled trials to answer this question.

Any words of wisdom for young endocrinologists attending ECE 2019?

Be open minded, if you do clinical research, try to combine clinical work and research, which can be very satisfying. Also, try to experience research abroad and not just in your home country.


You can hear Professor Mirjam Christ-Crain’s European Journal of Endocrinology Award Lecture, “New approaches in the differential diagnosis of diabetes insipidus” on Saturday 18 May, at 18:20. Find out more about the ECE 2019 scientific programme.