News Release

National prize in neuroscience endowed by UNC professor

Grant and Award Announcement

University of North Carolina Health Care

CHAPEL HILL - A distinguished scientist at the University of North Carolina has endowed a $10,000 national prize to be awarded annually for an outstanding scientific contribution to neuroscience.

"It is my hope that the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize be awarded for an outstanding discovery or a seminal insight rather than to commemorate a lifetime body of work," said neurophysiologist Edward R. Perl, M.D., Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Cell and Molecular Physiology at UNC-CH School of Medicine. "The selection committee would be charged to choose from the broad field of neuroscience ranging from development to molecular mechanisms to integrative function. It is my specific wish that the prize should not focus on the same area in successive years."

Perl, who received his M.D. in 1949 from the University of Illinois at Chicago, twice served as acting head of the University of Utah's physiology department in Salt Lake City, where he was part of a strong neurophysiology program. He was recruited to Carolina to build up the university's strength in the neurosciences. Perl served as chairman of physiology at UNC from 1971 to 1989. A founder and acting president when the Society for Neuroscience was started in 1969, he was awarded that group's 1998 Gerard prize for outstanding contributions to the field.

Perl's work in pain mechanisms has been highly influential. He was the first to document the existence of nociceptors, sensory fibers specially activated by tissue damage and their relation to the sensation of pain. He continues to explore the biological bases of pain sensation.

"The prize allows me to acknowledge the University for the opportunities it has given me," he said. "The purpose of the prize would be to call attention to neuroscience at UNC by bringing to the campus on a yearly basis major contributors in the field to receive this award, give a lecture and interact with people here. The prize would be a legacy of my having been here and would help call attention to the institution and our strength in neuroscience."

He added: "The concept is to recognize people with fresh and current contributions and make them aware of UNC-Chapel Hill."

Nearing completion on the campus is a $30 million Neuroscience Research Center. Head of the new Center is William Snider, M.D., a pioneer in the action of nerve growth factors, proteins that help neurons grow. Perl helped recruit him to UNC.

"His nociceptor work has had an enormous impact on modern pain research. There are now literally dozens of laboratories as well as biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies studying the molecular characteristics of these neurons with an eye toward developing novel pain therapies," Snider said.


Note to media: Contact Dr. Perl at 919-966-3560; email:
Contact Dr. Snider at 919-843-8623

UNC Medical School Contact: Karen Stinneford, 919-966-6047; email:

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