Jean-Daniel Horisberger

HorisbergerA tribute to Jean-Daniel Horisberger (1951-2009)

Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Jean-Daniel Horisberger was born in 1951. He studied medicine in Lausanne. In 1979 Jean-Daniel began a PhD thesis in the Department of Pharmacology under the mentorship of Jacques Diezi. He published two seminal papers on the in vivo action of aldosterone in the rat that are still cited as the best experimental basis for studying the control of sodium and potassium balance by mineralocorticoid hormones in vivo [1,2]. In 1981 Jean-Daniel temporarily left the Department to complete his medical training, before committing himself definitively to research when he moved to the Department of Physiology at Yale for a post-doctoral fellowship with Gerhard Giebisch. There he focused his attention on potassium balance and again published very important papers on potassium transport in the collecting tubule of Amphiuma [3-7].

Upon his return to Lausanne in 1988, his academic and the ascent of his scientific career was fast and was remarkable not only for the quality of his teaching and research but also for his highly human and ethical values.

Jean-Daniel was fascinated by the global nature of scientific research. The range of his knowledge and of his competence widely surpassed his domain of specialization. He was interested in all aspects of biology, ranging from physiology, biophysics, evolutionary biology, genomics , bio-informatics to structural biology.

Despite his broad and deep interest in science, Jean-Daniel could never contemplate the progress of scientific research without considering its integration into human society. He closely followed the developments of clinical research and questions concerning the relationships between science and society. He was notably concerned by the ethical issues related to the experimental research on humans. He chaired for many years the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Medicine and that of the EPFL. He was not a man of speech but rather one of action who served as a widely respected role model; this was the mark of Jean-Daniel.

In the Department, Jean-Daniel was present everywhere at any time of the day, rushing from his laboratory to his desk to quickly elaborate some mathematical models with which to understand the function of tubular transport across the nephron. Working on the P-ATPase [8-17] and on the epithelial sodium channel [18-23], he was always at the intersection of all major projects and successes of Department during the last three decades.

Jean-Daniel was also characterized by his enthusiasm, his inalterable pleasure in the discovery and building of scientific knowledge, regardless of any other considerations. It is almost needless to say that he played a key role in our understanding of how aldosterone controls Na and K transport in the distal nephron by deciphering the regulation the two key players : the sodium pump and the epithelial sodium channel.

Jean-Daniel passed away during the night of April 1, 2009. We are greatly saddened by the loss of our dear friend, esteemed colleague. Until his very last day, he went to the lab, supervising students and post-docs, discussing the most recent literature, writing grants, submitting papers, the last one just accepted for publication two weeks before his death. Nothing could stop him fulfilling his duties as a teacher and researcher while keeping his position as Vice Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Medicine.

He will be terribly missed.

Thank you Jean-Daniel for all that you have done for your students, post-docs and colleagues of the Department and the Faculty.


Bernard Rossier and Laurent Schild Selection of landmark papers