Public Release: 

Award for a pioneer of Alzheimer's research

The Piepenbrock Group and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases honor British Neuroscientist John Hardy

DZNE - German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

This news release is available in German.

The Professor of Neuroscience at University College London (UCL) has made groundbreaking findings on the molecular causes of this brain disorder. His discoveries provide the basis for therapeutic approaches and potential medicines. The award ceremony will take place on World Alzheimer's Day - September 21, 2015 - in Bonn, Germany.

"John Hardy is a pioneer," says Prof. Pierluigi Nicotera, Chairman of the DZNE's Executive Board. "To him we owe groundbreaking insights into the genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease and the role of certain proteins for its pathogenesis. Hardy has been involved for more than 25 years in the investigation of Alzheimer's and shapes this area of research to date. Worldwide, he is one of the most cited Alzheimer's researchers by scientific journals."

Arnulf and Olaf Piepenbrock, both Chief Executive Officers and Chairmen of Piepenbrock Group, see in the disease not only a challenge for science but also for society. "In Germany, about 1.5 Million people have dementia. Many of them are affected by Alzheimer's. We require new approaches in order to help patients and their relatives," as Olaf Piepenbrock explains the motif for donating the prize money. "Groundbreaking research for possible therapies is the best way to achieve this. With the award we aim at honoring outstanding accomplishments in this field."

Every two years the "Hartwig Piepenbrock-DZNE Prize" honors outstanding contributions to the study of neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases, which include Alzheimer's, are characterized by neuronal dysfunctions and the death of nerve cells. The prize is endowed by the Piepenbrock Group. The winner is chosen by an international committee under the coordination of the DZNE.

This year, the prize will be awarded for the third time. In 2013 it went jointly to the Swiss Adriano Aguzzi and the US-American Charles Weissmann, in 2011 the awardee was the German molecular biologist Konrad Beyreuther.

The Hartwig Piepenbrock-DZNE Prize is awarded in remembrance of the Group's former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the same name. Hartwig Piepenbrock himself passed away after suffering from dementia. He had been committed to art, science and society for many years.

Background on the awardee

John Hardy (born 1954) is Professor of Neuroscience at University College London (UCL) and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He specializes in molecular genetics. Hardy is one of the world's leading experts on the genetic causes of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases of the nervous system. For roughly two decades, the British scientist has been giving new momentum to this field of research time and again and continues to do so today. Particularly outstanding is a discovery Hardy made at the beginning of the 1990s: He was the first to find a genetic defect that can trigger Alzheimer's disease. Today, several such defects are known.

With the discovery of this genetic fault which may occur in the blueprint of the so-called amyloid precursor protein, Hardy laid one of the cornerstones of the "amyloid hypothesis". This hypothesis assumes that Alzheimer's is caused by defective proteins - called "amyloids" - that accumulate in the brain thereby damaging the nerve cells.

The amyloid hypothesis is one of the most significant models for explaining the molecular processes underlying Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, it is the basis for several treatment approaches that aim to prevent an accumulation of defective proteins or to dissolve existing aggregates.

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