2019 Sherman Emerging Leader Prize Recipient

Florian Rieder, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Inflammation and Immunity; Clinical Staff, Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH

Innovating to find a treatment for fibrostenosis, a common and severe complication of Crohn’s disease, earns Dr. Rieder the 2019 Sherman Emerging Leader Prize.

Destined to Make a Difference

As the only physician in a family of businesspeople, lawyers, and teachers, Dr. Rieder says he pursued a different path in medicine because it combined his interest in scientific discovery with his ambition to help people. He was specifically drawn to an IBD specialty because he saw the opportunity to make a positive impact on those coping with these challenging and chronic diseases.

“If you successfully treat patients with IBD, you can change their lives, help them go back to work, have a family, and lead a normal life,” said Dr. Rieder. “That’s what I wanted to give to my patients.”

This desire to improve patients’ quality of life led Dr. Rieder to focus on one of the greatest unmet needs in IBD – a common and difficult-to-treat complication called fibrostenosis, in which chronic intestinal inflammation leads to a build-up of scar tissue, narrowing the intestine into what is called a stricture that can cause an intestinal blockage.

“About half of all people with Crohn’s disease develop fibrostenosis, as do 10 percent of people with ulcerative colitis,” Dr. Rieder said. “There’s no medical treatment for this painful complication that often leads to repeated endoscopies, surgeries, and hospitalizations for patients.”

“My career’s goal is to make a profound impact on patients’ lives by developing a medicine for this potentially devastating consequence of IBD.”

The lead author of the first European clinical consensus on the diagnosis and management of intestinal fibrosis, Dr. Rieder is considered an international expert.

He came to the U.S. from Germany to advance his research and has built a bench-to-bedside team at the Cleveland Clinic. Comprised of scientists and healthcare professionals purely focused on fibrosis, his team is working to identify the mechanism by which strictures develop and ways to potentially reverse them.

In partnership with several colleagues, Dr. Rieder has also initiated an international working group to define a pathway for developing anti-stricture medicines. He is currently working to validate clinical trial outcome measures that he hopes will lead to the first study of an anti-stricture therapy in Crohn’s disease.

“Finding a medicine to effectively treat fibrostenosis will require a multi-disciplinary team effort – that’s how advances are made possible in IBD research and why I’ve always worked to facilitate collaboration in the field,” said Dr. Rieder.

Dr. Rieder sees great potential among his junior colleagues to keep moving the science forward and has built networks in Europe and the United States to support their career development. In Europe, he led Young ECCO for the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation, significantly growing the group of young clinicians and developing novel international education and research programs. He also consulted with colleagues on a similar program that was underway in the United States, and together they built REACH-IBD for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Now, Dr. Rieder says it’s the largest career development organization for IBD in North America.

“Supporting my junior colleagues is a great way to give back,” he said, “and I think the field benefits tremendously from connecting young, motivated researchers with senior researchers to propel the next advances in IBD science.”

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