Public Release:  Karl Deisseroth, Gero Miesenböck and Edward Boyden win Brandeis' Gabbay Award in Biotechnology

Trio win for optogenetics advances

Brandeis University

Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University, Gero Miesenböck of the University of Oxford and Edward S. Boyden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been awarded Brandeis University's 16th Annual Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine.

The researchers are being honored for their contributions to the discovery and applications of optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists to control the brain's activity by genetically engineering neurons to fire in response to light. Hundreds of labs have started using the technique to manipulate brain activity in experimental animals, exploring the neurobiology of phenomena such as decision-making and neurodegenerative diseases. The technique is expected to have significant impact on the brain initiative just announced by President Obama.

Karl Deisseroth is the D. H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He received his M.D., Ph.D from Stanford University School of Medicine, where he also did his internship and residency. He has been on the faculty of Stanford since 2004.

Gero Miesenböck is the Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Magdalen College. He studied medicine at the University of Innsbruck and did postdoctoral work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He was on the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University and Yale University before coming to Oxford in 2007. He is the founding director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour.

Ed Boyden is Associate Professor, Media Lab and McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and Departments of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University and did postdoctoral work there with Karl Deisseroth. He moved to MIT in 2006 where he is now a member of the faculty.

The Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine was created by the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation, and is given in recognition of scientists in academia, medicine, or industry whose work has outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences. The history of science suggests that most scientific revolutions are sparked by advances in practical areas, such as instrumentation and techniques. This year's honorees exemplify the spirit of this award in that their laboratory observations have led to significant practical consequences.

The award, given annually, consists of a $15,000 cash prize (to be shared in the case of multiple winners) and a medallion. The recipients travel to Brandeis University in the fall of each year and present a lecture on their work, followed by a dinner at which the formal presentation takes place. Nominations were solicited from selected scientists in industry and academia. A panel of distinguished researchers representing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as universities and schools of medicine, are assembled to consider nominations.

This year's symposium will take place on Thursday, October 10, at 3:30 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center theater. The talks are free and open to the public.

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A complete list of awardees can be found at http://www.rose.brandeis.edu/Center/gabbay_award.html

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