In White House Ceremony, Prusiner Receives National Medal

In a White House ceremony led by President Barack Obama, UCSF Nobel laureate Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, today (Nov. 17) will receive the 2009 National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and technology.

The event, which will be held at 5:20 p.m. ET (2:20 p.m. PT) in the East Room of the White House, will be carried live by satellite feed and webcast on the White House website.

Medal of Science Ceremony
White House
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Prusiner is among 10 recipients of the award. Three other individuals and one team were named as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The ceremony follows a black tie gala held last night at the Ritz Carlton, in Washington, DC, honoring the recipients.

Prusiner, whose training as a neurologist involved seeing patients with devastating neurodegenerative diseases, was awarded the Medal in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to medical science.

In 1997, Prusiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery. He is among four UCSF Nobel laureates.

Focusing on Prion Diseases

His pioneering work, begun in the 1980s, led to the 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.

One of the best known prion diseases in humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. 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 prion diseases as well as the more common disorders, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), which he directs. The IND involves faculty at six University of California campuses.

He has become an outspoken advocate for dramatically increasing federal funding for Alzheimer’s disease research, saying that, with a dedicated effort, there is a chance for a breakthrough against the disease by 2020.

In October, he co-penned an opinion piece in The New York Times calling for Congress to pass legislation currently before it that would quadruple federal funding for Alzheimer’s disease research, raising the annual investment by the National Institutes of Health from $450 million to $2 billion. The legislation also would require that the President designate an official whose sole job would be to develop and execute a strategy against Alzheimer’s.

Photo by David Powers

Related Links:

Prusiner NYT Op-Ed calls for Alzheimer’s research funds
UCSF News Release, November 9, 2010

The Age of Alzheimer’s
New York Times, October 27, 2010

UCSF’S Prusiner receives President’s National Medal of Science
UCSF News Release, October 15, 2010

UCSF Neuroscience Building to drive advances against brain diseases
UCSF News Release, January 21, 2010

Could They All Be Prion Diseases?
Science magazine, December 4, 2009

Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases