PHILADELPHIA — Virginia M.Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, and John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, both professors of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, have been named recipients of the 24th annual Medical Research Award in Neuropsychiatric Disorders by the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation.

The award recognizes exceptional basic, clinical, or translational research accomplishment in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neuropsychiatry to promote awareness for these fields.

Lee and Trojanowski, both professional and personal partners, are co-directors of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR). Lee and Trojanowski's work with the tau protein has profoundly advanced the field of knowledge on Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Against the popular theory in Alzheimer's disease research that says plaques formed by a sticky protein-- amyloid-beta -- cause the damage found in an Alzheimer's inflicted brain, the duo argued that brain degeneration and cognitive impairments in Alzheimer's disease are instead caused by tangles formed by the brain protein tau. By explaining tau's biology, the two created a new set of targets for drugs to fight the disease.

"We deeply appreciate the efforts of the Pasarow family to give this award for research in neuropsychiatric disorders for nearly a quarter century," said Lee. "Recognition like this is an important way to emphasize the critical importance of advancing our understanding of the disorders we conduct research on because of the enormous burden of these disorders in the US as well as across the globe. We desperately need effective therapies for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal degeneration, and we will only find these through research."

"What's more, all of the advances that have come from our lab on these disorders would not be possible without the teamwork of amazing scientists and staff we work with at Penn, including all the team members in our Center," said Trojanowski. "We thank them for their dedication as well as the leadership of Penn Medicine, which has created an incredible environment in which to pursue our research goals."

This year, in addition to Trojanowski and Lee, the Foundation gave a neuropsychiatric disorders award to Christine Petit, MD, PhD, of College de France.

Among other roles, Lee is the John H. Ware 3rd Professor in Alzheimer's Research and o-director of the Marian S. Ware Center for Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Program. Trojanowski is also director of the Institute on Aging and the William Maul Measey-Truman G. Schnabel, Jr. MD Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology.

Trojanowski and Lee will be honored in an award ceremony on April 20.

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 $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 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 $425 million awarded in the 2018 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 Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Home Care and Hospice Services, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 40,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2018, Penn Medicine provided more than $525 million to benefit our community.

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