Prof Giovanna Mallucci receives Potamkin Prize, regarded the ‘Nobel Prize of Alzheimer’s research’

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The prestigious 2021 Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick's, Alzheimer's and Related Diseases has been awarded to Prof Giovanna Mallucci, UK DRI Centre Director and van Geest Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, for her work into the loss of synapses in neurodegenerative disease. The accolade is shared with Dr Ken Kosik, a Harriman Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Potamkin Prize is given in partnership with the American Academy of Neurology and the American Brain Foundation. First established in 1988 to honour Luba Potamkin who was diagnosed with Pick's disease, it is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of Alzheimer's research. Over the years, it has awarded more than $3 million to 68 scientists conducting innovative research in the field, including UK DRI researchers Prof Karen Duff, Prof John Hardy and Prof Bart De Strooper.

I am delighted and deeply honoured to receive the 2021 Potamkin Prize. It is a tremendous endorsement of my lab's mission to discover ways to treat these currently incurable diseases – that touch so many of our lives – by targeting common dysregulated pathways. My sincere thanks to the Potamkin family. Prof Giovanna Mallucci, UK DRI Centre Director

One of the leaders in the research area of protein-misfolding disorders and modulation of proteostasis, Prof Mallucci was the first to describe the role of PERK signalling over-activation in driving synapse and neuronal loss through repression of global protein synthesis rates. Her work has shown how neuronal death can be prevented by blocking this process with drugs in mouse models of frontotemporal dementia and prion disease.

Giovanna Mallucci Award

The Potamkin Prize selection committee chose to award the Prize to two recipients based on their equally compelling research and accomplishments, and added the following on Prof Mallucci’s achievements:

“Giovanna has championed the idea that neurodegeneration processes span varied neurodegenerative diseases, seeing analogies across prion disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerations. Her work has focused on stress response pathways and protein degradation pathways as toxic insults, and she has highlighted the possibility that repurposing of drugs may prove useful in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.” 

 UK DRI Director, Prof Bart De Strooper, said: 

“I am thrilled that the selection committee have chosen to award the prize to Giovanna. She is a remarkable researcher, and we are extremely fortunate to have her lead our Centre at Cambridge. Her findings are truly pushing forward the field of neurodegeneration and, crucially, closer to treatments for those living with dementia.” 

Andi Potamkin, Potamkin Philanthropies Co-Chair, said:

"It is my pleasure to award these two dedicated doctors with this year's Potamkin Prize. My family and I are inspired by their innovative contributions in the fight to understand and treat brain degenerative diseases."

Article published: 16 April 2021