We mourn the loss of our long-time board member Markus Schmutz (3 May 1947 to 5 December 2021).

(Zurich/Basel, December 2021) Markus Schmutz, neurophar­ma­col­o­gist and long-time board member of the Swiss League Against Epilepsy and most recently of the partner and patient organi­za­tion Epi-Suisse, passed away on December 5, 2021, after a long and patiently endured illness in Basel, his birth­place and place of work for decades.

After his studies in zoology at the Univer­sity of Basel with a diploma in 1972 and a doctorate in 1976, he completed further training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neuro­surgery, Queen Square, in London, among other places, and maintained a long-term collab­o­ra­tion with the neurophar­ma­col­o­gist Harvey J. Kupfer­berg at the National Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, as part of the “Antiepileptic Drug Devel­op­ment Program” (1).

At Ciba, later on Ciba-Geigy in Basel (now Novartis), he was head of preclin­ical antiepileptic drug devel­op­ment and epilepsy research for many years until his retire­ment in 2014, respon­sible, among other things, for the preclin­ical devel­op­ment of oxcar­bazepine (2) and rufinamide (3), two compounds that also reached market maturity. Most recently, he was Distin­guished Scien­tist and Execu­tive Director, later on he was appointed Global Head Animal Welfare at Novartis.

One of us (G.K.) had already met him during his time in the depart­ment of neurology at Mainz Univer­sity Hospital, when he organized and published a workshop on the then standard antiepileptic drug carba­mazepine in 1987. Markus Schmutz, together with co-authors, contributed the pharma­co­log­ical profile of the compound at that time (4).

Markus Schmutz was also a valued expert and colleague along­side his work in the pharma­ceu­tical industry. For example, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Swiss 3R Research Founda­tion for a long time, as well as a member of the Board of the Swiss League Against Epilepsy from 1992 to 2018, and has been a member of the Board of Epi-Suisse (patient organi­za­tion) since 2010.

He first joined the patient organi­za­tion Epi-Suisse in his function as delegate of the Swiss League Against Epilepsy. Markus Schmutz easily mastered the change of perspec­tive and became a committed advocate for the psychoso­cial concerns of people with epilepsy – and did so with a great deal of humanity and the ability to pay atten­tion to small details at the right moment and still see the big picture.

In these two organi­za­tions, too, he will be remem­bered for his deeply Basel-related, reserved and (self-)ironic manner. This also included an incred­ible generosity exercised in quiet modesty. It filled him with deep joy to make other people happy. Discus­sions and conver­sa­tions with him were always surrounded by joyful laughter or at least relaxed smiles in no time. The League is partic­u­larly indebted to him for his dedicated service in two challenging situa­tions, when he contributed his great leader­ship and life experience.

Another one of us (S.R.) also knew Markus Schmutz from his non-medical side. As a true Basel resident, he was of course a fan of the tradi­tional local soccer club FC Basel (FCB), which dominated Swiss soccer for many years. He was equally enthu­si­astic about tennis and was one of the best experts on the scene. Anyone who ever had the pleasure of spending a day with him at the Swiss Indoors experi­enced an unfor­get­table lesson in this sport that was as expert as it was cheerful.

Last but not least, he also had an artistic streak and was very fond of jazz. Not only did he love listening to this music, he was also co-producer of jazz musicians or bands like Enrico Piera­nunzi, VEIN or the Norrbotten Big Band (5)

Markus Schmutz has left a lasting mark – through his research, his commit­ment, and also as a person. We miss him, but are grateful to have known him. Our thoughts are with his family, to whom we wish much strength.

Günter Krämer, Julia Franke, Dominique Meier, Zurich, and Stephan Rüegg, Basel

  1. 1) Kupfer­berg HJ, Schmutz M. Screening of new compounds and the role of the pharma­ceu­tical industry. In: Engel J Jr, Pedley TA, eds, Aicardi J, Dichter MA, Heine­mann U et al, assoc eds. Epilepsy. A Compre­hen­sive Textbook. Volume 2. Philadel­phia – New York, Lippin­cott – Raven 1998: 1417–1434
    2) Schmutz M, Brugger F, Gentsch C et al. Oxcar­bazepine: preclin­ical anticon­vul­sant profile and putative mecha­nisms of action. Epilepsia (fourth series) 1994; 35, Suppl 5: S47–S50
    3) White HS, Franklin MR, Kupfer­berg HJ, Schmutz M, Stables JP, Wolf HH. The anticon­vul­sant profile of rufinamide (CGP 33101) in rodent seizure models. Epilepsia (fourth series) 2008; 49: 1213–1220
    4) Schmutz M, Klebs K, Mondadori C, Olpe HR. Das pharmakol­o­gische Profil des Carba­mazepin. In: Krämer G, Hopf HC, Hrsg. Carba­mazepin in der Neurologie. Stuttgart – New York, G. Thieme 1987: 4–13
    5) https://www.discogs.com/artist/4251281-Markus-Schmutz

Related content

About us
Article by M. Schmutz in “Epilep­tologie” (German)