Groundbreaking Insights into the Mechanisms of Brain Diseases
Bonn/Osnabrück/Cambridge, October 15, 2021. This year’s “Hartwig Piepenbrock-DZNE Prize”, endowed with 60,000 euros, goes to neuroscientist Michel Goedert from Cambridge, UK for his groundbreaking research on the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Goedert, who was born in Luxembourg, is a Programme Leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. The prize is jointly presented by the Piepenbrock Group and DZNE. The award ceremony will take place next February in Bonn, Germany.
“Michel Goedert’s research focuses on the causes and mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders. He has been a pioneer in this field for many years. His findings on protein aggregates, as they occur in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain diseases, are groundbreaking. Michel Goedert’s work provides deep insights into the development of these diseases and is essential for finding approaches for new treatments”, says Professor Pierluigi Nicotera, Chairman of DZNE’s Executive Board.
"With the Hartwig Piepenbrock DZNE prize, we want to bring outstanding research results on Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases to the fore and honour the scientists behind them," says Olaf Piepenbrock, Managing Partner of the Piepenbrock Group. "Public discussions are also important to us. We want to talk about dementia. In the society and together with patients and relatives. Neurodegenerative diseases mean enormous physical and psychological burdens. In addition to supporting cutting-edge research, we therefore see our task as ensuring a better understanding of the needs of people with Alzheimer's and their family members."
Award for Cutting-Edge Research
Since 2011, the “Hartwig Piepenbrock-DZNE Prize” has been awarded every two years for outstanding research on neurodegenerative disorders. These diseases, which include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are characterized by dysfunctions and death of neurons. This can lead to dementia, movement disorders or other severe health problems. To date there are no cures. The prize is sponsored by the Piepenbrock Group and awarded in remembrance of its former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Hartwig Piepenbrock, who passed away after suffering from dementia. He was committed to the arts, science, and society for many years. Prize winners are selected by an international committee, coordinated by DZNE. On this occasion, the prize will be awarded for the sixth time.
About the Laureate
Michel Goedert was born in Luxembourg in 1954. He went to Medical School in Basel, Switzerland, and received a PhD in pharmacology by the University of Cambridge, UK. In 1984 he joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge as a postdoctoral fellow. He has been Programme Leader there since 1988. Goedert’s research focuses on the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular on protein molecules that naturally occur in humans but accumulate in the brains of patients in an abnormal manner. In this context, Goedert has been studying the tau protein and the alpha-synuclein protein.
Normally, tau proteins stabilize transportation routes within neurons. However, in Alzheimer’s and several other brain diseases, tau proteins detach from the cytoskeleton and agglomerate, forming insoluble aggregates. Goedert made a key contribution to understanding this phenomenon by showing that tau proteins are an essential constituent of the filamentous deposits that occur in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, he found gene mutations that lead to defective tau protein and ultimately to dementia. His studies also provided evidence that tau aggregates can spread throughout the brain in a chain reaction in which new aggregates are constantly formed.
In addition, Goedert demonstrated that the alpha-synuclein protein is the main component of microscopic deposits which occur in the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia and so-called multisystem atrophy. Moreover, his studies provided crucial insights into the molecular structure of alpha-synuclein aggregates and, similarly to the case of the tau protein, evidence that these aggregates can gradually spread across the brain, advancing disease progression.
Michel Goedert is a recipient of numerous awards for his research.