The Lundbeck Foundation announced March 6 that Bart De Strooper, Michel Goedert, John Hardy, and Christian Haass would share the 2018 Brain Prize of €1 million. The foundation recognized the quartet for their groundbreaking research into the genetic and molecular bases of Alzheimer’s disease. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Copenhagen on March 9.

The prize has been awarded annually since 2011, when Péter Somogyi, Tamás Freund, and György Buzsáki were recognized for helping elucidate how cortical and hippocampal circuitry form memories. This is the first time the award has gone to AD research.

Alzforum closely covers the work of the four researchers, who, in turn, contribute commentary and advice to the research community via Alzforum.

Hardy co-discovered amyloid precursor protein (APP) mutations that cause early onset familial AD, tau mutations that cause frontotemporal dementia (Goate et al., 1991; Research Timeline). He helped formulate the amyloid hypothesis, which places the Aβ peptide ahead of tau and into a pathological cascade leading to AD (Hardy and Alsop, 1991; Hardy et al., 1998Research Timeline). Hardy has made seminal discoveries across neurogenetics, including of tau mutations causing frontotemporal dementia and α-synuclein triplication as a cause of early onset Parkinson’s disease (Hutton et al., 1998Singleton et al., 2003). At University College London, Hardy’s team co-discovered that rare variants in TREM2 drive up risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, magnifying global research interest into this microglial receptor (Nov 2012 news). In essence, Hardy’s work helped inspire the cell and molecular biology research being done on APP, tau, and TREM2.

Haass co-discovered that the generation of Aβ from APP is part and parcel of normal cellular biology, and subsequently dissected the molecular mechanisms and consequences of APP processing by the enzyme complex γ-secretase (Haass et al., 1992; Research Timeline; Haass et al., 1992). His lab pinpointed how mutations in APP accelerate its cleavage by the enzyme β-secretase, explored additional substrates of BACE, and in the process advanced the field of regulated intramembrane proteolysis, aka RIP (e.g. Haass et al., 1995; Willem et al., 2006). Haass discovered APP fragments that modulate neuronal activity (Willem at al., 2015). Recently, the lab focused on elucidating the processing and function of TREM2, and discovered that the concentration of a soluble piece of TREM2 rises in the CSF of people in the prodromal phase who are approaching Alzheimer’s dementia (e.g. Suárez-Calvet et al., 2016). 

De Strooper directs the new U.K. Dementia Research Institute. In his early career, he helped unravel how β- and γ-secretases orchestrate the release of Aβ from APP and how they process other substrates, including Notch (De Strooper et al., 1998; Research Timeline; De Strooper et al., 1999Research Timeline). By uncovering subtle changes in BACE knockout mice, De Strooper alerted the field to potential adverse effects of targeting β-secretase therapeutically (Dominguez et al., 2005; Research Timeline). Linking presenilin mutations to the production of Aβ43, a toxic peptide, De Strooper’s group helped solidify the amyloid cascade as the driving force in early onset familial AD (Veugelen et al., 2016). His recent review on the cellular phase of AD is considered a blueprint for exploring the molecular underpinnings of the prodromal decade of AD, and for broadening the amyloid hypothesis to integrate compensatory and dynamic cell biology process during those years (Mar 2016 webinar). 

Goedert was recognized for his contributions to the study of the second major pathological hallmark of AD, neurofibrillary tangles comprised of tau. Goedert cloned this microtubule-binding protein and went on to show how phosphorylation increased its propensity to aggregate (Goedert et al., 1988; Research Timeline; Goedert et al., 1992). He figured out how multiple isoforms of tau factor into pathology, and his transgenic mouse models of human tau mutations helped the field understand the complexity of tauopathies (Goedert et al., 1989; Allen et al., 2002; Research Timeline). Goedert’s work helped establish the concept that tau spreads through the brain in a prion-like manner (Jun 2009 news; Research Timeline). Most recently he teamed up with colleagues at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge to solve the structure of tau filaments isolated from the brain of an AD patient (Jul 2017 news).—Tom Fagan


No Available Comments

Make a Comment

To make a comment you must login or register.


News Citations

  1. Enter the New Alzheimer’s Gene: TREM2 Variant Triples Risk
  2. Traveling Tau—A New Paradigm for Tau- and Other Proteinopathies?
  3. Tau Filaments from the Alzheimer’s Brain Revealed at Atomic Resolution

Webinar Citations

  1. Webinar: Can ‘Cellular Phase’ Unite Disparate Data on Alzheimer’s Pathogenesis?

Paper Citations

  1. . Segregation of a missense mutation in the amyloid precursor protein gene with familial Alzheimer's disease. Nature. 1991 Feb 21;349(6311):704-6. PubMed.
  2. . Amyloid deposition as the central event in the aetiology of Alzheimer's disease. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1991 Oct;12(10):383-8. PubMed.
  3. . Genetic dissection of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias: amyloid and its relationship to tau. Nat Neurosci. 1998 Sep;1(5):355-8. PubMed.
  4. . Association of missense and 5'-splice-site mutations in tau with the inherited dementia FTDP-17. Nature. 1998 Jun 18;393(6686):702-5. PubMed.
  5. . alpha-Synuclein locus triplication causes Parkinson's disease. Science. 2003 Oct 31;302(5646):841. PubMed.
  6. . Amyloid beta-peptide is produced by cultured cells during normal metabolism. Nature. 1992 Sep 24;359(6393):322-5. PubMed.
  7. . Targeting of cell-surface beta-amyloid precursor protein to lysosomes: alternative processing into amyloid-bearing fragments. Nature. 1992 Jun 11;357(6378):500-3. PubMed.
  8. . The Swedish mutation causes early-onset Alzheimer's disease by beta-secretase cleavage within the secretory pathway. Nat Med. 1995 Dec;1(12):1291-6. PubMed.
  9. . Control of peripheral nerve myelination by the beta-secretase BACE1. Science. 2006 Oct 27;314(5799):664-6. PubMed.
  10. . η-Secretase processing of APP inhibits neuronal activity in the hippocampus. Nature. 2015 Oct 15;526(7573):443-7. Epub 2015 Aug 31 PubMed.
  11. . Early changes in CSF sTREM2 in dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease occur after amyloid deposition and neuronal injury. Sci Transl Med. 2016 Dec 14;8(369):369ra178. PubMed.
  12. . Deficiency of presenilin-1 inhibits the normal cleavage of amyloid precursor protein. Nature. 1998 Jan 22;391(6665):387-90. PubMed.
  13. . A presenilin-1-dependent gamma-secretase-like protease mediates release of Notch intracellular domain. Nature. 1999 Apr 8;398(6727):518-22. PubMed.
  14. . Phenotypic and biochemical analyses of BACE1- and BACE2-deficient mice. J Biol Chem. 2005 Sep 2;280(35):30797-806. Epub 2005 Jun 29 PubMed.
  15. . Familial Alzheimer's Disease Mutations in Presenilin Generate Amyloidogenic Aβ Peptide Seeds. Neuron. 2016 Apr 20;90(2):410-6. PubMed.
  16. . Cloning and sequencing of the cDNA encoding a core protein of the paired helical filament of Alzheimer disease: identification as the microtubule-associated protein tau. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Jun;85(11):4051-5. PubMed.
  17. . Tau proteins of Alzheimer paired helical filaments: abnormal phosphorylation of all six brain isoforms. Neuron. 1992 Jan;8(1):159-68. PubMed.
  18. . Multiple isoforms of human microtubule-associated protein tau: sequences and localization in neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer's disease. Neuron. 1989 Oct;3(4):519-26. PubMed.
  19. . Abundant tau filaments and nonapoptotic neurodegeneration in transgenic mice expressing human P301S tau protein. J Neurosci. 2002 Nov 1;22(21):9340-51. PubMed.

Other Citations

  1. Research Timeline

Further Reading

No Available Further Reading