Dundee professor wins award for research into Parkinson’s disease

A scientist from the UNIVERSITY of Dundee has received one of the most prestigious awards in his field.

Professor Dario Alessi of the University Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU) in the School of Life Sciences won the 2023 Jeantet-Colleen Prize for Translational Medicine.

The Louis-Jeantet Foundation award came with a cash prize of £440,000, of which £396,000 goes towards the winner’s further research, while the remainder is allocated for personal use.

Professor Alessi discovered components that regulate pathways linked to human diseases, in particular neurodegenerative diseases.

The scientist said: “I was surprised but very honored to receive one of this year’s Louis-Jeantet awards, along with Brenda Schulman and Ivan Đikić, whose research I greatly admire.

“I would like to thank the University of Dundee, the UK Medical Research Council and the Michael J Fox Foundation for their long-term support which made the research possible.”

Their efforts have led to fundamental advances in unraveling the role of the enzyme LRRK2 kinase in Parkinson’s disease and have helped to develop potential therapies to slow the disease in patients, known as LRRK2 inhibitors, which are currently being tested in late-stage clinical trials.

He added: “I dedicate this award to my collaborators and the talented researchers past and present who have worked in my lab. Our research was greatly inspired by the many people impacted by Parkinson’s that I was privileged to know, which kept us going through periods when progress was slow.

“While our work has helped to clarify some of the biology around LRRK2 and Parkinson’s, much remains to be done to develop treatments that slow the progression of the disease. I intend to use the award funds to help advance new therapies.”

The research contributed to the understanding of the pathways involved in diabetes, cancer and blood pressure, in addition to his work on neurodegenerative diseases.

The award will be presented at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, April 26.

Megan Dowie, Chair of the Board of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the Medical Research Council, said: “Professor Alessi has made many invaluable contributions to our understanding of the cellular pathways related to Parkinson’s disease over his esteemed career, and this prestigious prize is the most important. deserved.”

She added, “The work he leads at MRC-PPU is a great example of strong discovery research, aided by an excellent collaborative environment with academic and industry colleagues, and leading to the development of potential new therapies for this devastating disease.”

Professor Alessi was born in Strasbourg in 1967 and earned his BA and PhD at the University of Birmingham before undertaking postdoctoral work at the MRC-PPU in Dundee.

He has been a group leader at MRC-PPU since 1997 and was appointed its director in 2012.

The scientist was also elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2005 and a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2002), the Royal Society (2008) and the Academy of Medical Sciences (2012).

Throughout his career, he has been honored with awards including the EMBO Gold Medal (2005) and the Royal Society’s Francis Crick Award (2006).

The Louis-Jeantet Awards distinguish, year after year, outstanding researchers working in the member states of the Council of Europe.

The prizes were established in 1986 and have so far been awarded to 103 researchers, 15 of whom have subsequently won Nobel Prizes.

Dundee professor wins award for research into Parkinson’s disease

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