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MRC LMB's Michel Goedert receives Royal Society's 2019 Royal Medal for his neurodegenerative disease work

Michel Goedert, from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has been awarded the Royal Society’s 2019 Royal Medal for Biological Sciences for his work on neurodegenerative diseases.

He has been honoured for identifying and characterising key molecules that form the inclusions of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Michel Goedert, from the MRC LMB, Picture: Keith Heppell
Michel Goedert, from the MRC LMB, Picture: Keith Heppell

Dr Goedert who is a fellow of the Royal Society, said: “I am honoured to receive the Royal Medal and feel humbled when I read the list of previous recipients.

“My work on neurodegenerative diseases would not have been possible without the support of Aaron Klug, the international culture of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the contributions of a number of close collaborators.”

The key aim of his work is understanding the pathological pathways that lead to neurodegeneration.

His research has been key to the discovery of the importance of assembled tau protein for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Tau protein assembles into clusters of filaments and becomes insoluble, forming tangles inside nerve cells.

Tau protein, which is implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Picture: Basel University. (14090065)
Tau protein, which is implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Picture: Basel University. (14090065)

Dr Goedert also identified the protein alpha-synuclein as the major component of the abnormal filamentous inclusions of Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy.

In collaboration with Sjors Scheres, he also recently provided the first structures of amyloid filaments from the human brain

Dr Jan Löwe, director of the LMB, on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, said: “Michel and his co-workers keep making seminal contributions to our understanding of protein filaments that are at the heart of the devastating diseases caused by neurodegeneration, which is quite possibly the most important medical problem today.

“It gives me immense pleasure to have learned that the Royal Society has awarded the Royal Medal to someone so deserving and so exemplary of LMB’s culture of tackling important long-term problems.”

Two Royal Medals are awarded each year by the Royal Society for the most important contributions to the advancement of ‘natural knowledge’ in the physical and biological sciences. A third Royal Medal is awarded in the field of applied sciences.

Michel Goedert, from the MRC LMB, Picture: Keith Heppell
Michel Goedert, from the MRC LMB, Picture: Keith Heppell

One of the society’s premier awards, they are made on behalf of the Queen and have been awarded annually since 1825. Dr Goedert is the 11th LMB scientist to be awarded a Royal Medal, with John Kendrew, Fred Sanger, Max Perutz, Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, Hugh Huxley, Cesar Milstein, John Gurdon, Alan Fersht and Greg Winter before him. Also receiving a Royal Medal this year is the University of Cambridge’s Dame Ann Dowling for work on the reduction of combustion, aerodynamic noise and the design of aircraft, and her distinguished services to engineering.

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said: “The Royal Society gives an array of medals and awards to scientists who have done exceptional, ground-breaking work. This year, it is again a pleasure to see these awards bestowed on scientists who have made such distinguished and far-reaching contributions in their fields. I congratulate and thank them for their efforts.”

In 2018, Dr Goedert was awarded the Brain Prize along with Bart De Strooper, Christian Haass and John Hardy, “for groundbreaking research on the genetic and molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease”.

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