PHILADELPHIA —The Instituto Paulo Gontijo International Medicine PG Award for the best ALS research by a young investigator was given to Aaron Gitler, PhD, assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The award includes a $20,000 cash prize, a gold medal, and an invitation to present at the International Symposium on ALS/MND in Sydney, Australia in November 2011. The award for research related to ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) – is sponsored by the Instituto Paulo Gontijo, a Brazilian institution conceived by the physicist and engineer Paulo Gontijo.

Gitler’s research is focused on understanding what causes ALS, primarily the role of two proteins, TDP-43 and FUS, which have recently been associated with ALS. Both TDP-43 and FUS can form clumps in the motor neurons of ALS patients but how they cause disease is unknown. In order to figure out how FUS and TDP-43 contribute to ALS, his lab has been searching for genes that can reverse this process. These studies led them to recently discover that another protein, called ataxin-2, plays an important role in ALS.

“I'm delighted and honored to have won this award,” says Gitler. “When you consider the quality of the other outstanding and dedicated ALS researchers around the world, it’s clearly humbling and a great privilege.”

For more information, please read about the announcement on the Instituto Paulo Gontijo website.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.