Dr. Lorenz Studer, MD, gave his award lecture for the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine to a crowd of students, faculty and visitors at the Carl. J. Shapiro Theater Tuesday afternoon.
Studer received the 21st Annual Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award “in recognition of his innovative and transformative contributions to the fields of stem cell biology and patient specific, cell based therapy,” according to the Brandeis University website. Studer’s groundbreaking research in the use of human embryonic stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease won him the Gabbay Award.
The Gabbay award was established in 1998 when the trustees of the Jacob and Louise Foundation decided to recognize achievements in basic and biomedical sciences. The award was created to honor scientists early in their careers, as opposed to traditional awards which tend to go to more established scientists. The Gabbay award goes to those whose work has “significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences,” according to the Brandeis University website.
The annual award consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion. The award recipients travel to Brandeis in the fall and present a lecture of their work. The lecture is followed by a formal presentation.
Nominations for the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award are solicited from scientists and a panel of researchers, with representatives from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, who then gather to decide the recipient.
A native of Switzerland, Studer is director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and member of the Developmental Biology Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Studer received an MD and doctorate degree from the University of Bern. Afterward he trained as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institute of Health, pioneering the therapeutic application of neural stem cell-derived neurons in models of neurodegeneration.
Studer’s award lecture revolved around his work using stem cell therapy to treat Parkinson’s disease. He called Parkinson’s “a global health problem.” The disease affects more than 5 million patients worldwide. Studer explained that a new type of treatment was necessary since “medication becomes less and less effective as the disease progresses.”
Studer described his journey to finding an “optimal source for Parkinson’s disease cell therapy. Along his scientific journey he met his wife, and fellow scientist, Viviane Tabor at the National Health Institute in Washington, D.C.
Studer concluded his lecture by expressing his belief that cell transplantation could present a novel therapeutic option for long-term restoration of motor deficits in Parkinson’s Disease. He was also very excited that cell banks for clinical trials have been generated and will be treating the first human patient this year.
Studer has received other notable awards, including the Louise and Allston Boyer Young Investigator Award, the Annemarie Opprecht Award and a MacArthur Fellowship. Last year’s Gabbay Award winner was MIT professor James J. Collins for his pioneering contributions to synthetic biology and its practical applications in medicine, biotechnology and the biomedical sciences.