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) 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