Stanley B. Prusiner
1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine
University of California
School of Medicine, San Francisco

Neuroscience researcher Stanley B. Prusiner won the 1997 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine "for his discovery of prions—a new biological principle of infection." His pioneering work had its genesis in 1972 when he encountered a patient who was dying of a so-called "slow virus" brain infection called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Prusiner eventually identified an entirely new genre of disease-causing agents—which he named "prions"—that exist normally as cellular proteins but possess an innate capacity to convert their structures into highly stabile conformations resulting in several deadly brain diseases of the dementia type in humans and animals, including CJD, scrapie (a sheep disease), Gertsmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE—better known as "mad cow disease").

Born in Iowa, Prusiner attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned his M.D. from Penn’s medical school in Philadelphia (1968). Following an internship at the University of California, San Francisco, and three years with the NIH (1969-1972), he returned to UCSF for a residency that would present him with his life’s work. He has been a professor of neurology, biochemistry, and biophysics at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco since 1974 and a professor of virology in residence at Cal-Berkeley’s School of Public Health since 1979. His awards include the Richard Lounsbery Award for Extraordinary Scientific Achievement from the National Academy of Science (1993) and the Paul Ehrlich Prize from the Federal Republic of Germany and the Paul Ehrlich Foundation (1995).

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