Director's Message

prusiner prion CJD

Stanley B. Prusiner, MD,
Nobel Laureate 1997

The last three decades have seen unprecedented advances in our understanding of the molecular, genetic, and cellular basis of neurodegenerative diseases. We have a fundamental understanding of the proteins underlying such devastating illnesses as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and prion diseases, and are moving on the development of targeted drug therapies. Since the 1970s, we have been producing groundbreaking results in the field of neurodegeneration, but we have strides yet to make.

Today, more is known about prion diseases than any other form of neurodegeneration. There is a rapidly growing body of evidence arguing that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, the frontotemporal dementias (FTDs), ALS, and Huntington’s are all neurodegenerative disorders caused by prions. This remarkable discovery is described in an article I published in the journal Science in June 2012, and not only represents a profound leap forward in our understanding of these dreaded illnesses, but also illuminates a pathway for the development of novel treatments. I further described these advances in the eighth Charlie Rose Program on the Brain entitled, "Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease, and Other Prion-based Neurological Disorders," that aired on PBS.

The unique, integrated structure of the IND allows our researchers to work along parallel tracks of discovery such that advances in one disease area often lead to advances in others. To facilitate and promote this collaboration, the University of California constructed a new, state-of-the-art research center for the IND. The Sandler Neurosciences Center brings together diverse facilities and an unprecedented concentration of researchers developing molecular diagnostics and new treatments for the neurodegenerative diseases. As a result, we now have the capacity to move findings swiftly from our labs into drug discovery and on to experimental treatments in patients.

We are committed to finding cures and have the momentum to move toward that goal. I urge you to keep abreast of our work at this exciting time in the history of our program and the field.

Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, Nobel Laureate 1997
Director, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases
University of California, San Francisco