It is the most generously-endowed of any medical research prize in the world, and is awarded every four years - this year the prize is dedicated to research into the biological basis of psychiatric dis-orders. The foundation has awarded Prof. Dr. Deisseroth the prize to honour his discoveries in optogenetics and hydrogel-tissue chemistry, as well as his research into the neural circuit basis of depression.
Basis of Psychiatric DisordersAround 20 percent of the population of Europe and the USA suffer from psychiatric disorders, and the number is increasing - it is an enormous burden for patients, relatives and society as a whole. “With the prize, our hope is to lay the groundwork for breakthroughs in the diagnos-tics and therapy of psychiatric disorders,” said Prof. Dr. Michael Madeja, board member at the EKFS. The awarding of the Else Kröner Fresenius Preis für Medizinische Forschung serves not only to recognise groundbreaking discoveries in the study of the biological basis of psychiatric disorders. It is, to a larger degree, oriented to the future, through its sponsorship of the research Deisseroth will carry out with his team and to which almost 90 percent of the prize money will go.
Depression: the Focus of Researchers
Cracking the Neural Code - the name of Karl Deisseroth’s laboratory describes perfectly what happens there. Here, the goal is to trace changes in brain structure caused by psychiatric disorders, identify the root causes of these disorders and develop therapies. Together with a team of 35 young scientists of various nationalities and disciplines, the researcher wants to use the EKFS prize money to research depression and depression-like symptoms. “The brain itself is simply fascinating,” said Deisseroth, who, as a neuroscientist, benefits from his ongoing experience as a psychiatrist. Encounters with patients suffering from autism, depression, schizoaffective disorders and anorexia awoke his research interest in neural circuits.
Leading Researcher Deisseroth
Deisseroth is described by those who work with him as “brilliant, creative, ambitious and vi-sionary”. He began his scientific career as a professor of bioengineering and psychiatry at Stanford University, and was elected a member of the renowned National Academy of Sci-ences in 2012. In 2014, he became an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was accepted at the Leopoldina,the National Academy of Sciences in Germany. He was also one of the minds behind the billion dollar U.S. BRAIN Initiative, planned in 2013 by a small group of neuroscientists and the Obama administration. Having pioneered both opto-genetics - a method which allows control of neurons with light - and hydrogel-tissue chemistry - a method which makes the network of nerve cells visible - he has made an essential contribution to the understanding of the biological basis of psychiatric disorders. Since his groundbreaking publications beginning over 10 years ago, his methods have been used in thousands of laboratories worldwide.
An international jury, chaired by Emeritus Professor Peter McGuffin (King’s College London) evaluated all nominations and, after a multistage selection process, unanimously announced the winner