Dundee researcher honoured with prestigious award for Parkinson’s research
Published on 14 November 2023
Professor Dario Alessi has been awarded the Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), recognising his exceptional research contributions to the disease
Professor Alessi is Director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU) and Professor of Signal Transduction in the University’s School of Life Sciences.
The Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research has been awarded annually by MJFF since 2011. This award to Professor Alessi includes a $200,000 research grant.
“It is an incredible honour to receive the Pritzker Prize,” said Professor Alessi. “Having this award funding will be transformational to furthering our progress on Parkinson's research and moving us closer to finding treatments that cure the disease. It also helps us achieve a key goal in the lab: giving students and other researchers fantastic opportunities to learn about research and become leading experts in this field.”
Professor Alessi has a distinguished history as a global leader in the study of kinases, a class of cellular proteins that includes LRRK2, the most frequent cause of inherited Parkinson’s. In addition to running a lab focused on kinase research, he directs the Dundee Signal Transduction Therapy Unit, a collaboration between leading researchers in the University's School of Life Sciences and some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
He also leads an international research network team that explores the biology underlying genetic mutations in Parkinson’s disease. The team is part of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, a coordinated research initiative which focuses on accelerating the path to a cure for Parkinson’s disease through collaboration, research-enabling resources and data sharing.
Noting Professor Alessi’s work illuminating the pathobiology of the LRRK2 mutation and his pivotal role guiding MJFF’s LRRK2 funding and research strategy, Shalini Padmanabhan, MJFF’s Vice-President, Discovery and Translational Research, said, “Dr. Alessi has trailblazed areas of science that are key to our understanding of the genetics of Parkinson’s disease. This work provided a greater understanding of LRRK2 that is being leveraged in ongoing and future trials of therapies to inhibit LRRK2 and hopefully slow the progression of the disease.”
Professor Alessi earned his Bachelor’s and PhD degrees from the University of Birmingham and carried out postdoctoral work at the MRC-PPU at Dundee. He has been a group leader in the MRC-PPU since 1997 and was appointed its director in 2012.
He was elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2005 and as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2002), the Royal Society (2008) and of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2012). Throughout his career, he has been honoured with awards, including the EMBO Gold Medal (2005) and the Francis Crick Prize of the Royal Society (2006).
This year, he was named as the winner of the prestigious Jeantet-Collen Prize for Translational Medicine and was awarded an OBE in the King’s Birthday Honours list.
The Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson's Research
The Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson's Research is named in honour of the late Robert A. Pritzker, a renowned industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Pritzker was founder of The Marmon Group and president of Colson Associates, Inc., holding companies for a variety of manufacturing and medical businesses. Additionally, he was an early promoter of the field of medical engineering at his alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, where he also played a key role in expanding the biomedical research community through his support of The Pritzker Institute for Biomedical Science and Engineering at IIT.
The MJFF Scientific Advisory Board serves as the jury panel. Selection criteria include the nominee's complete body of work in the PD field with an emphasis on its impact on accelerating drug development; field-wide impact of the nominee's work; dedication to patient-relevant science; and influence on and encouragement of the next generation of PD investigators. The award itself is designed by renowned artist and Parkinson's patient Tom Shannon.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
As the world's largest non-profit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors, and volunteers. In addition to funding $1.75 billion in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges ground breaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; creates a robust open-access data set and biosample library to speed scientific breakthroughs and treatment with its landmark clinical study, PPMI; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events, and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.
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