The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, given each year to researchers who distinguish themselves in biomedical research in one of the member states of the Council of Europe and worth half a million Swiss Francs (€470,000), has been given to Prof Erin Schuman based in Frankfurt, Germany. The prize will allow Prof Schuman to continue her work on the role of protein synthesis in memory and learning.
Prof Schuman is a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and head of the Department of Synaptic Plasticity, as well as Professor of Biology at Goethe University Frankfurt. She works on the cellular mechanisms involved in learning and memory, in particular the synthesis of the proteins that underpin memory in the brain. Specifically, her team has found that these proteins are produced in the long branches protruding from the brain cell body, known as dendrites, and that this process is necessary for the brain to learn new skills and store new memories.
Prior to moving to Germany, she made her career in the US, obtaining her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Princeton University before taking positions at Stanford, Caltech and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has previously won the Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement award from the Society on Neuroscience for her ground-breaking work and her advocacy for women in neuroscience.
Prof Schuman was awarded the prize alongside Graziella Pellegrini and Michele de Luca from the Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Modena. The Louis-Jeantet Prize is both intended as recognition of outstanding work and as encouragement of continued research. Therefore, 90% of the award money is earmarked to finance ongoing research. Building on her already impressive body of work, Prof Schuman will use the prize award to examine how protein synthesis is optimised in the brain. This kind of insight is crucial for understanding how we might treat neurodevelopmental disorders in the future and aid rehabilitation after brain damage.