AO, ETH Zurich partnership

19. March 2019

AO and ETH Zurich extend partnership to create value through opportunities for next-generation of musculoskeletal scientists

ETH Zurich students (l-r), Benjamin Burkhard, Yann Ladner, Simon Comtesse, have received AO Foundation Fellowships to conduct research at ARI

The AO Foundation and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) have signed a contract to extend their partnership to provide world-class research opportunities for master’s students and young scientists of the institute’s Department of Health Sciences and Technologies (D-HEST). 

The four-year extension ensures continued value creation among the next generation of musculoskeletal scientists by offering ETH Zurich students access to as many as four AO Foundation Fellowships and up to five AO Research Opportunity Awards each year.

ARI Director Prof R Geoff Richards said the partnership illustrates the AO’s commitment to improving patient care. The relationship, which Richards initiated with then ETH Zurich President Ralph Eichler, has had a positive impact.

“We have had some excellent, talented ETH Zurich students spending time here working in our clinically guided research projects,” he said. “Some of these are now performing joint PhDs based here at ARI through ETH. ARI is proud to be partnering with mainland Europe's highest rated university, along with other leading universities in the United Kingdom and Europe, the United States, and Asia.” 

AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) Principal Scientist Sibylle Grad, explained that "eleven D-HEST students have received AO Foundation fellowships to conduct research at ARI since 2015 when the original partnership agreement between the AO and ETH Zurich was signed." Their projects cover a vast array of relevant topics, from 'Directing osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells in vitro' to 'Cross-talk between mesenchymal stem cells and intervertebral disc cells.' In fact, ARI research experience has laid the foundation for one student to earn the ETH Medal while others earned top grades for their theses and secured PhD positions at top universities and research institutes—including ARI.

“The agreement provides for CHF 88,000 in AO support over the next four years, or CHF 22,000 per year to fund four AO Foundation Fellowships valued at CHF 3,000 each and five AO Opportunity Awards valued at CHF 2,000 each,” said Grad. “For students with little or no income, this financial support makes a valuable contribution toward the cost of living while recipients are doing their research in an ARI lab or at another institute/university in collaboration with their ETH Zurich department.”​


AO Foundation Fellowships allows master’s students to conduct musculoskeletal research in ARI’s labs in Davos, and the AO Opportunity Awards support D-HEST and ETH Zurich biomedical engineering students’ master’s and doctoral students’ exchange visits to the ARI lab and partners’ labs worldwide to increase researchers’ networks and collaboration.

“This partnership really is a win-win collaboration for both the AO and ETH Zurich because it enhances research in the field of orthopedics and musculoskeletal regeneration,” Grad explained. “Recipients get access to a worldwide network of scientists and surgeons who are leaders in their fields, as well as access to world-class lab facilities. Master’s students coming to ARI get very good supervision and exposure to our team of experienced and expert research scientists. At the same time, the agreement gives ARI staff access to certain ETH Zurich resources such as cutting-edge technologies that represent the future of patient care, and fosters collaboration with top ETH Zurich professors and their teams.”

Learn more​ about AO Foundation Fellowships and Awards available to ETH Zurich students. ​​​