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Peter Sandner: Professional and Personal Research

Pharmacologist and physiologist Dr. Peter Sandner examines one of the most important biochemical processes in the human body, to develop new therapies: the signal transduction cascade NO/cGMP. In his free time, he studies historical documents.

In my area of expertise, medicinal developments have already achieved a lot, but we are still at the beginning.

Dr. Peter Sandner is convinced that influencing NO/cGMP signaling and stimulating cGMP production can help cure many diseases.

It’s probably by chance that I´m working in pharmacological research today. There was a pharmacist in my home village, in Lower Bavaria, Germany, who had a pharmacy on the ground floor of the building where I grew up. After school, I often visited him in his shop and was fascinated when I watched him working with his substances and devices in his lab. He aroused my enthusiasm for natural and manufactured medicines. That’s how I ended up studying pharmaceutical sciences. But I soon realized that I didn’t want to work in a pharmacy. Instead of selling medicines, I wanted to explore their effects and develop new ones. That’s how I became a lab scientist and researcher.

Biochemical Messengers

Since my doctoral and post-doctoral studies, I’ve been working on physiological growth processes and hypoxia-induced gene expression, but I was also examining one of the basic processes in the human body: the Nitric Oxide (NO)/cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) signal transduction cascade and the effects of cGMP degrading phosphodiesterases (PDEs). This NO/cGMP pathway is a crucial biochemical process responsible for the regulation of cell and organ functions. It transmits the external stimuli the gas Nitric Oxide (NO) over several stations to the inner cell. The key event is binding of NO on the intracellular soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) which triggers cGMP formation. The cGMP is the vehicle inside cells then mediating the physiological responses. One of its duties is the regulation of blood vessel tone and blood pressure, but additional effects were and are currently discovered, which makes cGMP an exciting molecule.

In many diseases, this NO/cGMP signal cascade is out of order, and the body is short on cGMP. That´s why Bayer works on the development of agents that influence the cGMP formation: These sGC stimulators and sGC activators can directly bind and activate the sGC without requiring NO. This is a very special mode of action, and a first sGC stimulator – used for treating pulmonary hypertension, is already available on the market. Another agent is in the Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of heart failure. We hope that we can treat even more diseases, like kidney diseases but also very rare diseases, with our sGC stimulators and sGC activators.

International Teams and Testing

Investigating and proving these exciting hypotheses and identifying new treatment approaches for these sGC modulators is my main task at Bayer. I lead and coordinate projects with Bayer experts and external scientists from research institutes and universities worldwide. One of our tasks is testing if an sGC stimulator could also treat systemic sclerosis. This rare autoimmune disease, which makes the skin thicken and harden, is caused by skin fibrosis. When the disease spreads fibrosis, it also attacks the patient’s inner organs, so it causes a high morbidity and very low life quality but can be life threatening, too. In close cooperation with academic groups, we performed broad preclinical profiling and worked together with Bayer internal clinical development functions to prove this in patients. Currently, an sGC stimulator is investigated in Phase II clinical trial for patients with this rare and devastating disease.

My work is very demanding. In the late evening, or on vacation, I can enjoy my hobbies. Even then, I like to get to the bottom of things: I’m investigating the history of my home region, Lower Bavaria, and evaluating historical documents in archives. My research even inspired me to write small articles and also a book about the Danubian ferries near my home village, Winzer, at the banks of the river Danube from the 14th to 19th centuries. As with my work for Bayer, I’m on the trail of secrets - and, at times, I discover documents that no one has read for centuries.

CV PETER SANDNER

1964 Born in Hengersberg and grew up in Winzer, Lower Bavaria, Germany

1987-1992 Pharmaceutical Studies (Pharmazie) at Regensburg University, Germany

1993 Licensing as Pharmacist (Apotheker)

1997 Doctorate (Dissertation) in Physiology, Regensburg University

1997-2001 Post-Doctoral Fellow (Akademischer Rat a.Z.), Regensburg University

2001 Started as Lab Leader at Bayer, Drug Discovery Division, Wuppertal, Germany

2006, 2009 Senior and Principal Scientist position at Bayer

2013 Second Doctorate (Habilitation) at Hannover Medical School’s Institute for Pharmacology (Medizinische Hochschule Hannover) Hannover, Germany

2016 Appointment as Chief Scientist at Bayer Drug Discovery

2017 Co-Editor of the issue “Heart Failure” for The Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology

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