MEET OUR PAEDIATRIC COMS: Department of Pediatrics, Paracelsus Medical University, Austria

MEET OUR PAEDIATRIC COMS: Department of Pediatrics, Paracelsus Medical University, Austria

We are pleased to introduce Prof. Dr. Daniel Weghuber, COMs Lead at the Department of Pediatrics, Paracelsus Medical University in Austria. Prof. Dr. Weghuber and his multidisciplinary team are at the forefront of paediatric obesity treatment and research, significantly impacting both clinical practice and scientific understanding of obesity in children and adolescents.

Welcome, Prof. Dr Weghuber. Please introduce your COM – could you tell us about your team and the services your COM offers to patients?

Our paediatric COM team comprises around 50 professionals, who are positioned in our clinical team and in our research lab. Our multidisciplinary clinical team includes paediatricians, a paediatric surgeon, dietitians, psychologists, social worker, nurses, and sports scientists. Our research lab includes scientists from various fields such as biology, chemistry, genetics, and statistics, along with team members who provide administrative support.

Our COM offers a comprehensive range of services to patients, including metabolic assessments (with genetic testing), psychological evaluation and counselling support, behaviour modification training, pharmacotherapy, and inpatient rehabilitation. We also provide patients with digital follow-up and surgical interventions, when necessary. Our specialist team frequently manages complex cases involving patients with severe obesity and associated health complications. Our COM team takes a holistic approach to obesity management including thorough assessments, medical and psychological interventions, and strong collaboration with social services and other healthcare providers to support patients and their families comprehensively.

Is your COM currently involved in research projects? If so, please briefly describe them.

Yes, our COM is actively engaged in multiple research projects focusing on metabolic comorbidities, including glucose and fat metabolism (in particular, disturbed insulin sensitivity and secretion) and phenotypes of preclinical atherosclerosis. Team members in our COM are also exploring mitochondrial genetics, and lifestyle and pharmacological interventions for children and adolescents living with obesity. Prevention and epidemiology of childhood obesity are other research areas our team is involved in. Our research group is part of the YOUNG.HOPE Research Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, based in Salzburg, Austria (, which cares for children with metabolic disorders including inborn metabolic issues and non-communicable diseases, as well as developmental and nutritional disorders.

Thank you. Can you share any news or research highlights from your COM over recent years?

Recently, our team has been busy with one of our main research areas: anti-obesity medications in adolescents with obesity, and its translation into clinical practice. Several publications in the field have given us a lot of visibility regionally, nationally, and internationally. One of the publications from this work can be read here: Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adolescents with Obesity (Weghuber et al., 2022). Our study showed a once-weekly dose of 2.4 mg subcutaneous semaglutide significantly reduced BMI in adolescents with obesity compared to a placebo, alongside lifestyle intervention, over 68 weeks. However, gastrointestinal side effects were more common in the semaglutide group, with some cases of cholelithiasis and other serious adverse events. The availability of anti-obesity medication has been an important driver for the development of overall obesity management; integration of anti-obesity medication into existing management strategies has led to new concepts and ongoing research activities. This relevant paper has made a significant contribution to our team’s work over the past year: Reducing BMI below the obesity threshold in adolescents treated with once-weekly subcutaneous semaglutide 2.4 mg (Kelly et al., 2023). Aside from this, our COM was a leader in the development of a national treatment strategy for paediatric obesity, and is currently establishing a Child, Adolescent and Adult Obesity Center in Salzburg which aims to integrate services for obesity management across the entire life span.

This edition of the ‘Meet the COMs’ initiative featured the paediatric COM in the Department of Pediatrics, Paracelsus Medical University in Austria, led by Prof. Dr. Weghuber. This edition highlighted this COM’s comprehensive paediatric obesity services, ongoing research projects, and significant findings in anti-obesity medications. Prof. Dr. Weghuber also shared the COM’s achievements research and in developing a national treatment strategy. Thank you, Dr. Weghuber!