2002 Potamkin Prize Recognizes the Ground-Breaking Work of Alzheimer's Disease Researchers in Germany, Belgium

St. Paul, Minn. – The 2002 Potamkin Prize, one of the premier international prizes for neuroscientific research, will be shared by Christian Haass, MD, a Munich-based neuroscientist associated with the University of Munich, and Bart De Strooper, MD, a neuroscientist at the Katholieke University, Leuven, Belgium. "Both Dr. Haass and Dr. de Strooper are already internationally renowned for their groundbreaking research directed at advancing our understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease," says Roger N. Rosenberg, MD, former president of the American Academy of Neurology, and chair of the Potamkin Prize Committee from 1988 to 1999. "They are both highly deserving of this prestigious award." Both Haass and De Strooper will be present to accept their award at 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 16 at the AAN''s 54th Annual Meeting in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. (A media briefing will be held at 4:00 p.m., April 16, in Room C210 of the Colorado Convention Center.) Presented annually by the AAN, the $100,000 Potamkin Prize is awarded to recognize and promote excellence in neuroscientific research aimed at both finding the cause of Alzheimer’s, Pick’s and related dementias and developing effective therapies for their treatment. Since its founding 15 years ago, the Potamkin Prize has emerged as one of the most notable awards in international medicine. It is increasingly seen as a predictor of future Nobel Prize winners as well, says Rosenberg – especially since Stanley B. Prusiner, MD received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1997 after receiving the Potamkin Prize in 1991. Both Haass and de Strooper have explored similar aspects of the biological processes that cause Alzheimer’s disease, working to understand the molecular mutations which cause the disease to occur. Both have also pioneered new clinical research methods that help pave the way to further understanding of the disease. De Strooper was the first to suggest a direct linkage between certain human gene mutations and Alzheimer’s disease. His subsequent work has focused on clarifying the relationship between these significant genetic alterations and Alzheimer’s disease and on the means by which this process of neural degeneration can be prevented or reversed. His research has helped define new biological “targets” within the brain which may be amenable to therapeutic treatment. Haass has dedicated his career to understanding the chain of biological actions that leads to the production of disease-producing chemical compounds in the brain and central nervous system. His work in identifying these protein-like structures -- which he terms "the ticking time bomb in all of us, since every individual will produce this deadly substance" -- has significantly advanced scientific research aimed at developing treatments to interfere with the buildup of these mutated proteins in the brain of Alzheimer’s sufferers. "Both Drs. De Strooper and Haass have had a profound impact on our understanding of the ways in which Alzheimer’s disease occurs," says Rosenberg. "Their exemplary work has laid the foundation for unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease – a process which we in turn hope leads to better treatment and ultimately prevention of the disease." De Strooper is currently a professor of the Faculty of Medicine at Katholieke University in Leuven, Belgium and head of research at the Center for Human Genetics and the Laboratory for Neuronal Cell Biology. Haass is currently professor of biochemistry and head of the Department of Metabolic Biochemistry at the Adolf-Butenandt Institute, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. The Potamkin Prize is sponsored by the philanthropic contributions of the Potamkin family of New York, Philadelphia and Miami. The prize was co-founded by Robert and Alan Potamkin in honor of their mother Luba Potamkin. Well-known throughout the East Coast for her starring role as the 1970s TV spokesperson for the family’s chain of auto dealerships, Luba Potamkin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1978. In spite of the family’s love and search for the best possible medical treatment for her, the disease eventually claimed Luba’s life. But she inspired her husband and sons and their families to reach out to help others who suffer from the debilitating and ultimately fatal disease. The Potamkin Prize is the keystone of their commitment to support the efforts of medical researchers worldwide in their search for answers to the riddles of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Similar to the Nobel Prize system, the Potamkin Prize honors and rewards researchers for work which they have accomplished. The goal, as the two co-founders are quick to admit, is to help attract the best medical minds and most dedicated scientists in the world to the field of Alzheimer’s research.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 34,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

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