Nobel Laureate to Talk About Ways to Cure, Prevent Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Diseases

Stanley Prusiner to Deliver Public Mini Medical School Lecture

April 06, 2012
Stanley Prusiner received the Nobel Prize in 1997.

UCSF's Stanley B. Prusiner receives the Nobel Prize in 1997. Copyright © Pica Pressfoto AB 1997. Photo: Ulf Palm

UCSF Nobel laureate Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, UCSF professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, will deliver a special lecture as part of the UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public on Monday, April 16.

Prusiner's talk, "Discovering Ways to Cure and Even Prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease," is scheduled from 7 to 8:45 p.m., in Cole Hall Auditorium in the Medical Sciences Building, 513 Parnassus Ave. This lecture is free to UCSF faculty, students and staff; $5 for non-UC students and $20 for regular admission.

In 2010, Prusiner received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and technology, and in 1997, won the highly coveted Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 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 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.

Stanley B. Prusiner, MD

Stanley B. Prusiner, MD

“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.”

Prusiner joined the faculty at UCSF in 1972. He received his undergraduate and medical training at the University of Pennsylvania and his postgraduate clinical training at UCSF. From 1969-1972, he served in the US Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health. Editor of 12 books and author of more than 350 research articles, Prusiner's contributions to scientific research are internationally recognized.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and is a foreign member of the Royal Society, London.