Professor of Neurology and Director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases
University of California, San Francisco
Stanley B. Prusiner is Director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He received his B.A. in Chemistry in 1964 and his M.D. in 1968 from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his military service as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health and his neurology residency training at UCSF, he joined the UCSF faculty in 1974 and set up a laboratory to study brain diseases.
Prusiner discovered an unprecedented class of pathogens that he named prions. Prions are proteins that acquire an alternative shape that becomes self-propagating. As prions accumulate, they cause neurodegenerative diseases in animals and humans. Prusiner’s discovery led him to develop a novel disease paradigm: prions cause disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans that manifest as (1) sporadic, (2) inherited and (3) infectious illnesses. When proposed, many scientists considered Prusiner’s concept of ͞infectious proteins͟ as well as his proposal that a single protein could possess multiple biologically active shapes or conformations to be heretical. Based on his seminal discovery that prions can assemble into amyloid fibrils, Prusiner proposed that the more common neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases may be caused by prions. Remarkably, a wealth of evidence continues to accumulate arguing that prions cause not only these common degenerative diseases, but also ALS, the frontotemporal dementias (FTDs), chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Much of Prusiner’s current research focuses on developing therapeutics that reduce the levels of the specific prions responsible for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MSA, the FTDs, CTE and CJD.
Prusiner’s contributions to scientific research have been internationally recognized: He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a foreign member of the Royal Society, London. He is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s Disease Research from the American Academy of Neurology (1991); the Richard Lounsbery Award for Extraordinary Scientific Research in Biology and Medicine from the National Academy of Sciences (1993); the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1993); the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (1994); the Wolf Prize in Medicine from the State of Israel (1996); the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1997); and the United States Presidential National Medal of Science (2009).
Prusiner is the author of over 500 scientific research and 300 review articles, and editor of 11 books on diseases caused by prions. Prusiner’s recently published single-author book Madness and Memory, which chronicles his discovery of prions, has received wide acclaim. He holds 50 issued or allowed United States patents, all of which are assigned to the University of California. He has delivered over 150 honorary and over 725 invited lectures. Currently, Prusiner is the President-elect of the American Neurological Association.
Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.
FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.
FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.
The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.
FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.
The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.
About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste
FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.
Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.
The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.
The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.
FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.
FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.