Hans-Hasso Frey

1927 - 2020

On December 28, 2020, Professor. Hans-Hasso passed away in Neustadt in Holstein at the age of 93. He was an extraordinary personality as an internationally renowned scientist, academic teacher, and committed university politician.

Born in Leipzig, Frey grew up in Hannover and studied veterinary medicine there from 1946 to 1950. His interest in pharmacology was already evident at that time in the selection of his doctoral thesis on lumbosacral epidural anesthesia in dogs, with which he received his doctorate in 1951. After a brief intermezzo in veterinary practice, his final decision in favor of pharmacology was made in 1953, with acceptance of a position as a research associate at the Pharmacological Institute of the University of Hamburg. After a brief interlude in 1956 at the Pharmacological Institute of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Munich, he moved back to Richard Völker (1896 - 1981) at the Pharmacological Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) in the same year. Two years later he finshed his Ph.D. thesis with a fundamental work on the metabolism of short narcotics from the series of barbiturate derivatives and remained as a private lecturer at this institute for several more years. His first studies on antiepileptic drugs date back to this time (e.g. [1]).

In 1961, Frey became head of the pharmacology department of the Danish pharmaceutical company Leo Pharmaceutical Products in Ballerup. There he was involved in immunological issues and the development of diuretics, among other things. The highly effective loop diuretic bumetanide was developed largely under his leadership. Interestingly, this agent is currently also used in neonatal seizures (2,3). In any case, Frey's main interest continued to be CNS pharmacology. During his time in Denmark, he continued to lecture at the TiHo in Hannover and was appointed associate professor in 1964.

In 1968, he was simultaneously called to the Chair of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Munich and to the Chair of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Free University (FU) of Berlin, where he accepted the appointment in 1969. He declined another appointment to the chair in Munich in 1972 and headed the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the Free University of Berlin for more than 25 years until his retirement in 1996.

Frey continued his studies on CNS pharmacology and on diuretics in Berlin and, with inventiveness, research vision and coping with a huge workload, developed the Berlin institute into one of the most research-active institutions in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine despite the cramped spatial conditions. Epilepsy research soon moved to the center of attention, and his working group, integrated in intensive interdisciplinary collaboration, acquired a high international reputation with fundamental work on the pharmacology of antiepileptic drugs. This can be measured, among other things, by the fact that Freyt played a leading role in an epilepsy priority program funded for many years by the German Research Foundation (DFG). In 1985, Frey co-edited a standard work on antiepileptic drugs with Dieter Janz (1920 - 2016 ) (4), and a year later, he was the lead editor of a book on the development of tolerance under and side effects of antiepileptic drugs (5). Together with Janz, Frey initiated a regular epileptological colloquium at the FU in Berlin, attended by all Berlin scientists interested in epilepsy, to present and exchange new results from research.

The result of his broad and intensive scientific activities are more than 200 original scientific papers and handbook articles as well as numerous lectures at national and international conferences. With always new ways of thinking and the courage to use new methods, he influenced many young colleagues. His knowledge and skills benefited not only his students and collaborators, but also professional colleagues who had the good fortune to work more closely with him. Due to his high level of technical expertise, he was also a sought-after expert in numerous commissions, for example as a member of the Pharmacopoeia Commission and the Committee for Standard Approvals at the former German Federal Health Office (BGA). For many years he was chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Institute for Medicinal Products of the BGA as well as a member of the approval and preparation commission for veterinary medicinal products at the BGA.

In addition to research, teaching has always been a special concern of Hans-Hasso Frey. He has been able to impart to many generations of students an introduction to and understanding of pharmacology and the prerequisites for the targeted and conscientious handling of medicinal products, whereby he has been able to draw on the fund of his own experimental experience over wide areas like hardly anyone else. In the early 1990s, he and one of us (Wolfgang Löscher) began to compile the first German-language textbook of pharmacology and toxicology for veterinary medicine, which was first published in 1996 (6) and is now considered the standard work in this subject in its 4th edition. In addition, Frey still found time for university political commitment and the assumption of various tasks in the department and in the university self-administration (1976-79 chairman or spokesman of the department and 1981-83 dean).

Hans-Hasso Frey was a sought-after advisor, not only because of his great expertise, but also because of his, certainly not always comfortable, incorruptible criticism and openness. Among his numerous awards and prizes, the Alfred Hauptmann Prize awarded by the German Epilepsy Board in Bonn in 1980 is mentioned here as a representative example.

After his retirement, Frey moved with his wife Anni to Neustadt in Holstein and thus to the beloved north. After the early death of his son Matthias and, later, his wife, he increasingly withdrew, but remained an interested contact and friend to former students and colleagues. He also continued to maintain contacts with clinicians at home and abroad. In his will, he bequeathed the Michael Foundation, which was established in Germany in 1962 and which, among other things, awards the highly prestigious Michael Prize every two years at the International Epilepsy Congresses.

We will miss him and cherish his memory.

Wolfgang Löscher (Hannover), Heidrun Fink (Potsdam), Hartmut Weiß (Berlin), and
Günter Krämer, Zurich

1) Frey H-H, Hahn I. Untersuchungen über die Bedeutung des durch Biotransformation gebildeten Phenobarbital für die antikonvulsive Wirkung von Primidon. Arch Int Pharmacodyn 1960; 128: 281–290
2) Pressler RM, Boylan GB, Marlow N, et al, Neonatal seizure treatment with Medication Off-patent (NEMO) consortium. Bumetanide for the treatment of seizures in newborn babies with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (NEMO): an open-label, dose finding, and feasibility phase 1/2 trial. Lancet Neurology 2015; 14: 469–477
3) Soul JS, Bergin AM, Stopp C, et al; Boston Bumetanide Trial Group. A pilot randomized, controlled, double-blind trial of bumetanide to treat neonatal seizures. Ann Neurol 2021; 89: 327–340
4) Frey H-H, Janz D, eds. Antiepileptic Drugs (Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, Vol 74). Berlin – Heidelberg – New York – Tokyo, Springer 1985
5) Frey HH, Fröscher W, Koella WP, Meinardi H, eds. Tolerance to Beneficial and Adverse Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs. Workshop on Tolerance to Beneficial and Adverse Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs, Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany, September 1985. New York, Raven Press 1986
6) Frey H-H, Löscher W, eds. Lehrbuch der Pharmakologie und Toxikologie für die Veterinärmedizin (Textbook of Pharmacology and Toxicology for Veterinary Medicine). Stuttgart, F. Enke 1996; last edition as co-editor Frey H-H, Löscher W, Hrsg. Lehrbuch der Pharmakologie und Toxikologie für die Veterinärmedizin. 3., vollständig überarbeitete Auflage Textbook of Pharmacology and Toxicology for Veterinary Medicine. Third, completely revised edeition). Stuttgart, F. Enke 2010