Stanley B. Prusiner, MD

Director, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Professor, Department of Neurology


Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., is Director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He received his undergraduate and medical school training at the University of Pennsylvania and his postgraduate clinical training at UCSF. He completed his military service as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health. Editor of 12 books and author of over 500 research articles, Dr. Prusiner’s contributions to scientific research have been internationally recognized.

Dr. Prusiner discovered an unprecedented class of pathogens that he named prions. Prions are infectious proteins that cause neurodegenerative diseases in animals and humans. Dr. Prusiner discovered a novel disease paradigm when he showed prions cause disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans that manifest as (1) sporadic, (2) inherited and (3) infectious illnesses. Dr. Prusiner demonstrated that prions are formed when a normal, benign cellular protein acquires an altered shape. His concept of infectious proteins as well as his proposal of multiple biologically active shapes or conformations for a single protein were considered heretical. Remarkably, the more common neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and many of the frontotemporal dementias as well as some forms of ALS have been shown to be caused by prions over the past five years. Prusiner predicted a prion etiology for these common degenerative diseases based on his seminal discovery that prions can assemble into amyloid fibrils. Much of Dr. Prusiner’s current research focuses on developing therapeutics aimed at halting neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, the frontotemporal dementias and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Dr. Prusiner is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a foreign member of the Royal Society, London. He is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s Disease Research from the American Academy of Neurology (1991); the Richard Lounsbery Award for Extraordinary Scientific Research in Biology and Medicine from the National Academy of Sciences (1993); the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1993); the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (1994); the Paul Ehrlich Prize from the Federal Republic of Germany (1995); the Wolf Prize in Medicine from the State of Israel (1996); the Keio International Award for Medical Science (1996); the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University (1997); the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1997); and the United States National Medal of Science (2009).

Dr. Prusiner holds 50 issued or allowed United States patents, all of which are assigned to the University of California.

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