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Dyar Lectureship October 12 Features Pioneering Physician Stanley B. Prusiner

September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Soldiers, football players and Alzheimer's patients... What do they all have in common? Brain injuries.

Come hear Stanley B. Prusiner, the 1997 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, speak on the topic of brain injuries in these groups on Friday, October 12, 2012, at 5:30 pm.

Interested members of the public are cordially invited to the free talk in Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus. Reservations are not required.

Prusiner is the distinguished guest speaker for the Robert Dyar Labrador Memorial Lectureship in Epidemiology. 

About Stanley Prusiner

Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., is director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco where he has worked since 1972. He received his undergraduate and medical training at the University of Pennsylvania and his postgraduate clinical training at UCSF. From 1969-72, he served in the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health. Editor of 12 books and author of over 450 research articles, Prusiner’s contributions to scientific research have been internationally recognized.

Discoveries and Current Research

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 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 proposals of multiple shapes or conformations for a single protein as well as the concept of infectious proteins were considered heretical.  Prior to Dr. Prusiner’s discoveries, proteins were thought to possess only one biologically active conformation. Remarkably, the more common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases have been found over the past two decades to be, like the prion diseases, disorders of protein processing. Dr. Prusiner’s current research focuses on determining the atomic structure of prions, deciphering the mechanism of replication and defining how biological properties are enciphered in prion strains. In addition, he is developing drug discovery aimed at producing therapeutics that retard neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and prion diseases as well as the frontotemporal dementias.

Awards and Distinctions

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 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.

About the Lectureship

Faculty members of the Department of Population Health and Reproduction in the School of Veterinary Medicine and the Calvin Schwabe One Health Project sponsor the lectureship. Robert Dyar, MD endowed the Robert Dyar Labrador Memorial Lectureship in Epidemiology to recognize the School of Veterinary Medicine's pioneering achievements in veterinary epidemiology; encourage further development of the discipline; and stimulate student interest in veterinary epidemiology. Dyar told Calvin Schwabe, UC Davis’ first professor of epidemiology, that he would like to do something which would recognize the pioneering achievements of UC Davis in the field of veterinary epidemiology and encourage future development of that discipline on the campus. The resulting endowment also reflected his personal gratitude for the very close companionship that he, as a bachelor, had enjoyed all his life with a long series of Labrador Retriever friends, plus the kind and competent help that they had received over the years from practicing veterinarians. The lectureship's inaugural lecture took place in 1994.