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“An hour after the Ph.D. ceremony in Maastricht, he is already on his flight back”

“An hour after the Ph.D. ceremony in Maastricht, he is already on his flight back”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Karel Leunissen inspired by Giuseppe Remuzzi

Accepting money from the industry? Absolutely not, research must remain pure! Applying for patents? No, that would distract from the scientific work. In professor Giuseppe Remuzzi’s Italian Instituto Mario Negri, everything is about the patient and the search for medicines and therapies. He has no time for niceties.


At the end of 1999, Karel Leunissen, professor of Internal Medicine, specialising in nephrology, left for Bergamo for a sabbatical at the research institute run by Giuseppe Remuzzi, Beppe to close friends. “He was already world-famous in the field of nephrology, otherwise known as kidney diseases. He is a professor, but does not work at a university. In Italy, everyone who works in a large clinic, refers to himself or herself as professor. Mario Negri is a private research institute, set up in 1960 with the legacy of the jeweller of the same name. It is one of the top institutes in the field of nephrology, but also when it comes to blood coagulation.”

Leunissen was very impressed with Remuzzi’s scientific approach. “The researchers, at least sixty in the field of nephrology alone, meet up on a weekly basis. Results of fundamental but also clinical research are exchanged and discussed. Remuzzi acts as the binding factor and supervisor. He is sharp and picks up on the interesting matters. The atmosphere is great, the group is close-knit and the level is very high. These people do not have high salaries, often receive offers from abroad, but they stay on.”

Another special thing is the small clinic that Remuzzi has set up in Villa Camozzi for patients with rare kidney diseases. “There are frescos on the walls of the patients’ rooms. The patients come to Italy with their doctors for examinations and treatment. Sometimes the doctors also receive lectures. All this has helped our field to make great progress. Just look at the number of articles published by Remuzzi: 1,269 in major journals.”

This Italian doctor doesn’t just have patients coming to Bergamo, scientists from all corners of the world come to carry out research with him. “He is socially involved, wants to help the whole world along, so not just the western world.”

 “His life is to serve the patient,” says Leunissen. And he takes that to extremes. He tries to acquire subsidies everywhere in the world, but of course also in his own country. “He invited me to come to a press conference in the Scala in Milan on a Monday. In his very small car. Scala director Riccardo Mutti was to give a benefit concert with the Wiener Philharmoniker for the institute. Italians want to see and be seen, the opera was chock-full, a lot of money was collected. Why did I have to come along? The sculptor Antonio Pomodoro would be there as well to promote the concert. I was introduced to him and it turned out that his wife was a dialysis patient, my field of specialisation. If I could give them some advice?”

Remuzzi is not a chummy type, Leunissen grins, it is all work and no play. “He gives all his time to science. He has an honorary appointment at the UM, and so far four scientists from Mario Negri have completed a Ph.D. in Maastricht under the supervision of Beppe and myself. Beppe arrives in Maastricht half an hour before the ceremony. An hour after the ceremony he is already on his flight back.”



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