Parkinson’s Researchers Honored with Breakthrough Prizes

Scientific advances to speed a cure for neurodegenerative diseases were honored during the November 8 star-studded Breakthrough Prize ceremony.

The Breakthrough Prize, created by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley — including Google's Sergey Brin, 23andMe's Anne Wojcicki and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg — honors individuals who have made significant contributions in the fields of math, physics and life sciences. Winners take home $3 million.

MJFF grantee Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, of Stanford University and Ed Boyden, PhD, of MIT received prizes for their creation of optogenetics, which uses light signals to treat Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders.

John Hardy, PhD, of University College London also was awarded a Breakthrough Prize for uncovering the genetic mutations that can lead to a buildup of protein "plaque" in the brains of people with early-onset Alzheimer's.

An expert in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's genetics, Dr. Hardy won The Michael J. Fox Foundation's Pritzker Prize earlier this year for his work on the causal role of genetics in Parkinson's disease (PD), helping to revolutionize PD drug development.

Only 20 years ago, researchers believed genetics played little to no role in Parkinson's. Dr. Hardy's receipt of the Breakthrough Prize is an encouraging sign that our knowledge about PD and genetics has expanded. In addition, Drs. Deisseroth and Boyden's prizes show the role of innovative technology in the treatment of brain diseases.

See the full list of 2015 Breakthrough Prize winners.

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