Translational Medicine: Q&A with Márta Korbonits, MD, PhD

Korbonits at Podium
Márta Korbonits, MD, PhD, the 2023 Endocrine Society Gerald D. Aurbach Laureate Award recipient for Outstanding Translational Research, talks to Endocrine News about the award, her research on pituitary adenomas, and her own words of wisdom.

Márta Korbonits, MD, PhD, is no stranger to the endocrine research community. As president of the Society for Endocrinology and long-standing member of the Endocrine Society, both Korbonits’ dedication to the specialty and her work are well-renowned.

It should come as no surprise then that she has been recognized as the 2023 Laureate recipient of the Gerald D. Aurbach Award for Outstanding Translational Research — an award recognizing outstanding contributions to research that accelerate the transition of scientific discoveries into clinical applications.

As professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Queen Mary University of London, Korbonits is considered one of the top clinician scientists on the clinical, translational, and experimental aspects of pituitary tumorigenesis and familial isolated pituitary adenomas. She has also broken new ground on the metabolic effects of various hormones.

Korbonits accepts the 2023 Endocrine Society Gerald D. Aurbach Laureate Award for Outstanding Translational Research at ENDO 2023 in Chicago in June as then-President Ursula B. Kaiser, MD, looks on.

Outside of her time in the laboratory, Korbonits takes care of patients with endocrine diseases at London’s St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and teaches students at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Her list of national and international awards is extensive and includes the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Delbert A. Fisher Research Scholar Award for her work regarding the history of endocrinology. Korbonits is also an elected Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Endocrine News recently spoke with her to learn how understanding and treating pituitary adenomas became her purpose.

The Laureate award is named in honor of Dr. Gerald Aurbach, the Society’s 68th president and a renowned researcher and clinician. What did news of the recognition mean to you? 

I was thrilled to receive this as I feel my work is exactly “translational medicine,” translating clinical questions to experiments and the other way, taking scientific results and applying them for patient diagnostics or treatment. I sometimes feel that I am a “translator.” What I mean by that is that I understand the practicing clinicians’ issues, what interests them, and what is unclear for them in a complex science study and can explain the new findings in a light that brings out the key points and the potential clinical relevance or consequence. And vice versa, if there is a clinical problem, I really enjoy contemplating how this could be studied in the laboratory using cells or animal models and find the right collaborator to give it a go.

You have been honored for your contributions that have helped unlock the understanding of pituitary adenomas. What is your lab’s current research goals?

I am especially interested in familial pituitary adenomas, the underlying mechanism leading to tumorigenesis and especially why we see incomplete penetrance for some of these conditions.

“I feel my work is exactly ‘translational medicine,’ translating clinical questions to experiments and the other way, taking scientific results and applying them for patient diagnostics or treatment. I sometimes feel that I am a ‘translator.’ What I mean by that is that I understand the practicing clinicians’ issues, what interests them, and what is unclear for them in a complex science study and can explain the new findings in a light that brings out the key points and the potential clinical relevance or consequence.”

Márta Korbonits, MD, PhD, professor of endocrinology and metabolism, Queen Mary University of London, London, U.K.

You are also heavily involved in teaching and mentoring young researchers at Queen Mary University of London. What words of advice do you share about how you have made your journey from where they are now to your current success?

The first is to believe in your ideas. I only learned this later. The key to success is to collaborate, and the most important is to be resilient and persevering. If, as a young researcher with the most brilliant study plan, you do not get your research grant funded, then you should have the mindset – with support from colleagues – to shake it off and try again.

A firm believer in the importance of mentoring, she supervises a number of MSc and PhD students at the Queen Mary University of
London. Here, Korbonits (third from right) celebrates at her lab’s 2023 summer barbecue with colleagues and their families.

On top of all your research work, you’re a key member of the Annual ENDO Conference Steering Committee. How was ENDO in Chicago? Any sneak peaks at what attendees can expect next year?

The Chicago meeting was absolutely exciting! Lots of fantastic talks, workshops, exciting oral presentations, and great discussions at the posters. I really enjoyed meeting with all the colleagues I have not seen for the last few years. We are already preparing for Boston, so see you there!

—Fauntleroy Shaw is a freelance writer based in Carmel, Ind. She is a regular contributor to Endocrine News and writes the monthly Lab Notes column.

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