Michel Goedert receives the first Rainwater Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Neurodegenerative Research

Michel Goedert
Michel Goedert, who studies the molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration

The Rainwater Prize Program, the largest prize program for brain research based in Texas, US, has conferred its inaugural award to Michel Goedert. Michel, in the LMB’s Neurobiology Division, received the Prize for establishing that the abnormal assembly of Tau protein is central to a large number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The Rainwater Prize recognises our work on the role of Tau protein in a number of human neurodegenerative diseases that began at the LMB more than thirty years ago. This work would not have been possible without the long-term support from the MRC,” said Michel.

Launched in November 2018, the Rainwater Prize Program encourages and rewards scientific progress toward new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases related to the accumulation of tau protein in the brain. The Rainwater Prize Program fast-tracks scientific progress by encouraging additional research into neurodegenerative diseases, attracting new researchers to the tauopathy field, and recognising scientific achievements that lead to new, effective treatments.

Neurodegenerative diseases of the ageing brain, including Alzheimer’s Disease are a cause of considerable suffering for patients and their families worldwide, and a huge challenge for society and science. Worldwide, an estimated 50 million people are living with dementia. The number is projected to reach 82 million by the year 2030 and 152 million by 2050.

Michel’s work was instrumental in the discovery of the importance of Tau protein for Alzheimer’s disease. When Tau acts abnormally, it assembles into clusters of filaments and becomes insoluble. A pathological pathway leading from soluble to insoluble filamentous Tau is believed to cause neurodegeneration.

Atomic structures of Tau filaments from Alzheimer’s disease brain
Tau filament structures, rendered in blue and white, wrapped around a neuron from the cerebral cortex

Michel added that the Rainwater Prize will help them in their ongoing work on the mechanisms underlying the assembly, propagation and toxicity of Tau protein. This year, Michel was also awarded the Royal Society’s 2019 Royal Medal for Biological Sciences for his work on neurodegenerative diseases. And last year, he received the Brain Prize along with fellow neuroscientists Bart De Strooper, Christian Haass and John Hardy “for their groundbreaking research on the genetic and molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease”.

For the prize, colleagues and peers nominated the awardees based on published and peer-reviewed research related to Tau, and were selected by a committee of international scientific leaders from a wide range of fields and backgrounds. Michel was chosen for his research, leadership, mentorship, and overall contributions to the scientific community. He will give a lecture, next February, on his work at the Tau 2020 Global Conference in Washington DC.

Further references:

Michel’s group page
Rainwater Prize Program
Press Release