Press Release

Words matter: addressing obesity together

4 March 2021, SOPHIA (Stratification of Obesity Phenotypes to Optimize Future Obesity Therapy), is a €16 million EU-supported international research consortium that aims to improve obesity treatment and change the narrative around obesity.

–Twenty-nine leading partners from civil society, academia and industry in 12 countries are addressing obesity together to better understand the disease and optimise future treatment

As part of this 5-year project from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA); JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation); the Obesity Action Coalition; and T1D Exchange, the partners are working together to achieve a shared value or win-win for all stakeholders including patients, regulators, industry, payors, and clinicians.

Obesity, as defined by the World Health Organisation as “abnormal or excessive adiposity which may lead to ill health”, is a global pandemic currently affecting around 1.6 million people in Ireland, 150 million people in Europe and 650 million people worldwide. Thus far, lack of precision and oversimplification of key terms over time has led to poor obesity management.

SOPHIA Researchers are calling for action to update and clarify the language used by all stakeholders in such a way to support better care for people living with obesity.  This is an important step on our way to identify and chart models for the development of treatment pathways that will be valuable for patients, healthcare systems, researchers and clinicians.

Ms Jacqueline Bowman-Busato, who is co-leading this element of SOPHIA said “Our research outcomes are clear. There is a gap between the scientific reality of the biology behind obesity onset and then disease progression and the inaccurate myth that obesity is solely about weight. It is time we stopped focussing only on weight and actually focused on the disease of obesity. Aligning on precise language is a first and major step.

Prof Carel le Roux, coordinator of SOPHIA and obesity physician at the Diabetes Complications Research Centre at University College Dublin added, “We should avoid oversimplifications of treatments such as only addressing the imbalance between energy intake and energy output but rather consider a lifelong approach that includes a personalised holistic plan, co-designed by a healthcare team together with the individual and focus on improving health and not only on weight loss. This can be achieved using lifestyle changes, medication and surgical approaches which changes the biology of the disease”.

SOPHIA Project Leader Dr Marianne Grønning of Novo Nordisk, said: “One of the most important learnings so far in SOPHIA is the general consensus among the researchers involved that we need to refer not just to management of weight but rather speak about managing obesity with its many aspects to ensure a broader approach. SOPHIA is designed to help optimise the future treatment of obesity as based on better understanding of this complex and chronic disease”

The project is ongoing and hopes that an accurate use of language will allow more patients living with obesity to engage and be offered obesity management programs to improve their health.

Project facts

Project acronym:          SOPHIA

Start date:                      01 June 2020

Duration:                        60 months

Budget:                            € 16 Mio

Coordination:              University College Dublin, Prof Carel le Roux

Project Lead:               Novo Nordisk A/S, Dr Marianne Ølholm Larsen Grønning

About IMI

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is Europe’s largest public-private initiative aiming to improve health by speeding up the development of, and patient access to, innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need. IMI facilitates collaboration between the key players involved in healthcare research, including universities, the pharmaceutical and other industries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), patient organisations, and medicines regulators. It is a partnership between the European Union (represented by the European Commission) and the European pharmaceutical industry (represented by EFPIA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations). For further information:

Press Contacts

Project Coordinator:

Prof Carel le Roux

University College Dublin
Phone: +353 864117842

Project Lead:

Dr Marianne Ølholm Larsen Grønning

Novo Nordisk A/S

Contact via Media Relations Lead Mette Kruse Danielsen
Phone: +45 30793883

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 875534. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA and T1D Exchange, JDRF, and Obesity Action Coalition. For further information