It is now 50 years since my grandfather Peter Rehme set up the Anna-Monika-Foundation. At the time he was well known as a partner in a renowned trading house in Dortmund and as an international sugar trader.
It was a deep felt personal experience that led my grandfather in 1965 to encourage the research for the therapy of patients suffering from depression. By the time of his death in 1978 he had been able to witness the first significant successes of his Foundation and he knew that his aspirations promised to come true.
My grandparents had to carry a heavy burden seeing her daughter suffer from depression ever since she was young. She was the very reason why our Foundation was set up.
On occasion of the 50th Anniversary of our Anna-Monika-Foundation I would like to express my sincerest gratitude – gratitude not only to the multitude of our prize winners, but also to those scientists and groups of scientists who, without having been awarded any Anna-Monika-Prize, have achieved so much in the field of depression research.
I should especially mention our Honorary Chairman of the International Jury, Professor Dr. Paul Kielholz from Basle, to whom the Foundation and my mother in particular owe a great debt.
It is the achievement of those mentioned, that by now the Anna-Monika-Foundation enjoys a worldwide leading reputation in depression research.
The field of depression research may have changed over the years, yet, our family assures to contribute anything necessary to ensure further success to our Foundation in the hope that people suffering from depression will themselves ultimately benefit.
The Foundation is grateful for the following testimonials:
In 2015 Professor Dr. Bernhard Bogerts, current Member of the Committee of Judges, wrote:
„The syndrome of depression with its various clinical subtypes, unipolar and bipolar depression being the most prominent forms, belongs to the most serious contributors to the global burden of disease affecting about 350 million people worldwide (WHO, 2012). Depression is the most frequent reason for the worst case scenario of all psychiatric diseases, namely suicide, by which almost 1 million yearly lose their lives.
Although in the last decades effective diagnostic tools and treatments have been developed, only a minority of the patients are correctly diagnosed and receive adequate treatment. Research efforts in the last decades – many of them were awarded by the Anna-Monika Foundation – made it possible that, if this mood disorder is correctly diagnosed and treated in the best possible way, most patients have satisfying benefits showing reductions of symptom severity or even complete remission; but a significant proportion of patients remains until today difficult to treat or even treatment resistant.
Today, in the year of its 50th anniversary, the Anna-Monika-Foundation can look back on considerable number of awards given to outstanding scientists mainly from the United States and Western Europe who made pioneering contributions to improve our understanding of underlying brain dysfunctions as well as diagnostic approaches and treatment options for this major contributor to the global burden of diseases.
It is the merit of the private initiative of Peter Rehme who 50 years ago, in June 1965, initiated in Dortmund, Germany, the foundation and defined its purposes and its framework. Since that time international advisory boards and committees of judges of prominent clinical and theoretical experts in depression research evaluated critically more than 2000 applications for the Anna –Monika Prize.
In the last 50 years, in the biennial award ceremonies 81 researchers or representatives of research groups have been awarded, among them a later Nobel laureate. According to the aims defined by the initiator of the foundation, preferably research concerned with studies in the field of biological psychiatry (biochemistry, physiology, histology, psychopharmacology, genetics) was awarded, but also new developments in psychotherapy, epidemiology and nosology.
Scientific breakthroughs in depression research awarded in the first period of the foundation in the sixties and seventies of the last century were related to the discovery of the significance of cerebral neurotransmitter systems serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine, to lithium treatment, new findings in nosology and epidemiology of depression, pharmacokinetics and transmitter metabolism, early genetic studies, and neurotransmitter receptor interactions.
In the second period in the eighties and nineties, neuroendocrinological aspects, especially cortisol related brain mechanisms, first genetic localizations of genes predisposing for manic-depressive disorder, mechanisms of mood stabilizers as well as revised monamine theories were assessed to be worth of the prize.
In the last period after the turn of the century, new cellular theories of depression, the discovery of neuroplastic effects of antidepressants, role of genetics in bipolar disorder, amino acid and neurotransmitter contributions to the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder, antiglucocorticoid treatment, allosteric modulation of ligand-gated ion channels, research on molecular and genetic determinants of depression as well as life time achievement for the development of cognitive behavioural therapy were found by the prize committee to be outstanding contribution for a better understanding of depression and to improve our diagnostic tools or therapeutic strategies.
Nevertheless, depression continues to have a prominent role in the global burden of diseases and for many patients long treatment and remission times as well as unsuccessful treatment trials are reality until today.
It is the hope of the sponsor and advisory committee of the Anna-Monika foundation, that the prize will continue to stimulate not only senior scientists but also young researchers to increase their efforts in looking for further improvements to help the patients to overcome their disease.“
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Bogerts
In 1995 Professor Dr. Benno Hess, former member of the Executive Board, wrote:
„The Anna-Monika-Foundation – an Endeavor in Depression Research
For almost thirty years, the Anna-Monika-Foundation has been intensively involved in the promotion of research on the physical substrate and functional disturbances of depressions. When Consul Peter Rehme in Dortmund, Germany, driven by strong personal motivation, realized that financial support for psychiatric research and and specifically for depression research is not covered by public funding to any significant extent, he acted by setting up a private foundation with the aim of promoting depression research. Indeed, his private initiative reflects the liberal and truly humanistic responsibility which, for centuries, has prompted great men in free societies to establish useful foundations. In 1965, Peter Rehme’s endeavour soon received public support from the Government of North-Rhine Westphalia, Federal Republic of Germany.
The founder was well advised by psychiatrists and theoreticians in modern depression research and recognized the frequency and far-reaching impact of depression disease on mankind – with hundreds of millions of patients in the world today. He reacted in a far-sighted manner by setting up a worldwide international framework to define the work of the foundation. Soon, an international advisory board made up a prominent clinical and theoretical scientists from Europe and the United States was convened and agreed to focus on prize competitions, which allowed studies that has been submitted to be evaluated critically by an international jury. It is intended that the papers report on recent advances in knowledge that might be helpful in promoting treatment and would open up new pathways to progress. Furthermore, they should preferably be concerned with studies of a biochemical, histological, neurophysiological, psychopharmacological, psychiatric, or psychosomatic nature. The rather specialized policy of the foundation allowed the acknowledgement and enhancement of research in fairly specific areas and, at the same time, more marginal and high-risk research which might lead to new therapeutical concepts and applications. From 1966 to 1991 more than 1450 papers have been submitted by 401 authors, and 57 prizes have been awarded.
Today, the Topics of the publications whose authors have been selected as winners of the Anna-Monika-Prize reflect the history of the development of psychiatric Research during the last three decades and cover progrss in knowledge of the noradrenalin metabolism, of lithium therapy, the serotonin and catecholamine metabolism, of the role of Phase dependency in bipolar depressions, and of sleep and sleep deprivation in both depression therapy and research. Furthermore, prizes have been awarded to clinical studies of psychotherapy, of the Problems of nosological order, and of classification in depression, as well as to studies of classical and molecular genetics, of problems of the development of pharmacotherapy by antidepressive drugs, and of receptor specificities and the general problems of a disturbed neuroendocrinological axis.
Indeed, the remarkable progress that has been made in molecular biology, molecular genetics, and structure research of biological molecules has fully affected the neurosciences and clinical research in general, more specifically receptor and peptide hormone research, molecular neurogenetics, neural network research, and neuropharmacology. This wide range of approaches is instantaneously converted into new concepts and a growing understanding of the phenomena associated with depression.The general research strategies in this field treat the problem of depression – primarily a psychopathologic phenomenon – from the point of view of a clear concept of a molecular disease. Currently, this understanding leads to a differentiation and extremely useful interpretation of the possible causes of the general depression phenomenon in patients.
The apparent multiplicity of the symptomatic features of the development, the time course, as well as the time-dependency of depressive disorders is well-known. All these observations point to the high complexity of the underlying mechanism of affective illness. Indeed, what is aimed for is an understanding of the fuction of the most complex integrating network of hormonal interactions – well-balanced by modulated processes and coupled to neural inputs. Here, it is suggested that the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical system, which is displayed by dynamic function tests, is directly involved in the pathogenesis of depressive syndroms (for a review see Holsboer, 1989).The general implication of this system is exemplified by the numerous behavioral effects of the corticotropin-releasing hormone and its neurons. Today’s research has been quick to focus on the genomic mechanism of the receptor-mediated control of the behavioral adaptation of external inputs. Hormones, peptides and steroids are major tools in these interplays which, through adaptive mechanisms in the brain, create a balance between neural network functions and cellular and molecular components at the receptor or genome level and the cognitive and noncognitive inputs from outside the body.This concept calls for interdisciplinary studies at all the above mentioned levels of complexity, with the full repertoire of methodologies at hand. One of the major barriers to overcome in the future is the problem of the time-dependency of such integrating processes, the results of which need to be observable by noninvasive and continuous readout techniques. Fundamentally, however, we are dealing with the dilemma of the conflict between the reductionistic subsystem approach and the holistic definition of a patient’s unique, individual behavior – for which no animal model exists – as the principal source for critical evaluation as scientists strive to make multiple psychochemical layers accessible. Even so, a science of dynamic complexity is rapidly developing which might feed into depression research new concepts and models and methodologies for research strategies.
For the Anna-Monika-Foundation, well advised by the members of its scientific council, it is always an honor to search for and sponsor excellency in research and to maintain continuity in one of the most challenging research areas of modern medicine. This continuity is a prerequesite for successful research and progress which is also well characterized by the words of one of the most prominent physicists of our time, Rutherford, who said: „It is not in the nature of things for anyone man to make sudden violent discovery; science goes step by step and every man depends on the work of his predecessors. When you hear of a sudden unexpected discovery – a bolt from the blue, as it were – you can always be sure that it has grown up by the influence of one man on another, and it is the mutual influence which makes the enormous possibility of scientific advance. Scientists are not dependent on the ideas of a single man, but on the combined wisdom of thousands of men, all thinking of the same problem and each doing his little bit to add to the great structure of knowledge which is gradually being erected.“
Holsboer, F. (1989). Psychiatric implications of altered limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical activity. Europ. Arch, of Psych, and Neurol., Sci., p.238, 302-332.).
Prof. Dr. Benno Hess
Professor Dr. P. Kielholz, former Chairman and Honorary Chairman of our foundation, wrote in October 1983 the following testimonial:
„Assessment of the Anna-Monika Foundation
About 20 years ago the Anna-Monika Foundation was founded as a private initiative, which set itself the goal to explore the physical fundamentals and dysfunction of endogenous depression.
The creation of this foundation has been welcomed by the entire professional world with great interest, because there was no known foundation targeted to specifically research depression.
Due to the awarding of prizes, as practiced by the Anna-Monika Foundation, science is always animated to extend research. Fruitful approaches in research, in particular the younger generation, are fostered by the Anna-Monika Foundation and partially funded.
Experience shows that a significant progress in the study of depression has been achieved and thus the treatment options have been significantly improved.
That is the reason why the most renowned scientists in the world, despite their tremendous workload, decide to dedicate part of their time to the foundation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva is very interested in the work of Anna-Monika Foundation, and they never failed to send the Director of Mental Health Section, Professor Dr. N. Sartorius regularly to participate as an observer in the events of the foundation.
At this point, I would like to emphasize that in relation to other foundations, the Anna-Monika-Foundation makes with only a small expense an extraordinary contribution for science and progress in the treatment of depression.
Such support research by Anna-Monika Foundation sets an example and it is generally desirable that analogue private initiatives would be supported in other fields of psychiatry.“
Prof. Dr. P. Kielholz