National Medal of Science awarded to Alzheimer’s researcher posted on: 10-20-2010

UCSF’S Prusiner receives President’s National Medal of Science

Stanley B. Prusiner, MD
UCSF Nobel laureate Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, UCSF professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, today (Oct. 15, 2010) was named to receive the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and technology.

Prusiner was among 10 recipients named by President Barack Obama. In addition, three individuals and one team were named as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. All of the awardees will receive their medals at a White House ceremony later this year.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals in a variety of fields for pioneering scientific research that has led to a better understanding of the world, as well as to the innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. It is administered by the National Science Foundation, established by Congress in 1959.

Prusiner received the medal for his discovery of and ongoing research on a novel infectious agent, which he named the prion (PREE-on). The prion, composed solely of protein, causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, and other related fatal neurodegenerative diseases in animals and humans. Prusiner and colleagues are working on better methods for detecting prions and on the development of effective treatments for prion diseases.

In 1997, Prusiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery.

In recent years, Prusiner has intensified his focus on developing preventions and cures for the neurodegenerative diseases that include the prion diseases as well as the more common disorders, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), involving faculty at six University of California campuses.

He considers Alzheimer’s disease one of the most devastating and underfunded illnesses affecting society, and is advocating strongly for a substantial increase in federal funding for research.

“Alzheimer’s disease afflicts 5.3 million people in America,” said Prusiner. “Each year, about 500,000 people die with cancer and about the same number die with Alzheimer’s. Yet, Alzheimer’s research receives only $450 million annually from the National Institutes of Health, about 1/15th that devoted to cancer research. We urgently need to increase funding to make substantial breakthroughs.”

Read the full press release from the University of California San Francisco here: http://news.ucsf.edu/releases/ucsfs-prusiner-receives-presidents-national-medal-of-science/