Lab Canada

Top award for renowned Alzheimer’s researcher

Toronto, ON – Professor Peter St George-Hyslop, a world-renowned molecular geneticist who is director of the University of Toronto’s Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases, has won one of Europe’s top health awards for his pioneering work on the roots of neurodegenerative diseases.

This week he was honoured with a BIAL Merit Award in Medical Sciences, which was presented by the BIAL Foundation. The prize is one of the world’s most prestigious awards for health research. The European equivalent of Canada’s Gairdner Awards or the US’ Lasker Awards, the BIAL Merit Award recognizes written work that has major scientific relevance.

Prof St George-Hyslop’s winning research paper, “Translating Discoveries in Basic Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Molecular Genetics into Transformative Approaches to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Currently Incurable Neurodegenerative Dementias”, explores the key role that the discovery of genes with disease-causing mutations played in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of these diseases.

It describes the creation of useful model-organisms bearing these disease-causing mutations. Finally, it outlines the ongoing efforts to translate knowledge about the disease mechanism into potential diagnostics and disease-modifying therapies. 

“I am honoured to work with some of the world’s finest researchers who are dedicated to helping millions of people around the world through the advancement of knowledge and accelerated research and discovery on neurodegenerative diseases,” says Prof St George-Hyslop. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, but together we are an innovative force for progress on one of the century’s most significant health challenges.”

Also director of UHN’s Memory Clinic, he has produced an extensive body of research that focuses on understanding the causes and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and frontotemporal dementia.

By discovering two genes responsible for early-onset Alzheimer’s, he and his team have made early diagnoses and treatment of the disease possible, often before brain damage occurs. They are currently taking some of the knowledge about the molecular mechanisms of the disease that were uncovered by their genetic studies, and using this information to develop novel diagnostics and treatments.

“Groundbreaking discovery requires intensive investigation, and, with Professor St George-Hyslop’s leadership, the Tanz Centre’s relentless approach to pursuing these discoveries will help solve the mystery of complex neurodegenerative illnesses,” says Catharine Whiteside, dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Reported by Suniya Kukaswadia, who writes for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.