2021 Gruber Neuroscience Prize
May 5, 2021, New Haven, CT – The 2021 Gruber Neuroscience Prize is being awarded to neuroscientists Christine Petit, MD, PhD, of Institut Pasteur and Collège de France, and Christopher A. Walsh, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for their groundbreaking work in revealing the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind the development of inherited neurodevelopmental disorders. Petit is receiving the award for her seminal contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms involved with hearing and hearing loss. Walsh is receiving the award for his novel and fundamental insights into the development of the cerebral cortex and genetic brain disorders, including inherited forms of epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.
The Gruber Neuroscience Prize, which includes a $500,000 award, will be presented to Petit and Walsh in November at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
“These remarkable scientists have had a profound impact on our understanding of how the brain functions, both in health and disease,” says Frances Jensen, Professor and Chair Department of Neurology, Co-Director Penn Medicine Translational Neuroscience Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and chair of the Selection Advisory Board to the Prize. “Their research has also led to the development of exciting and promising new genetic therapies for neurodevelopmental disorders.”
While working separately in the 1990s, Petit and Walsh pioneered an innovative approach to identifying the genes responsible for hereditary hearing loss and disorders of the cerebral cortex: They studied the genomes of geographically isolated consanguineous families with multi-generational histories of such conditions. Then, using animal models and laboratory techniques created in their own laboratories, they went on to describe how the expression of these genes affect either the brain’s processing of sound or the development of the cerebral cortex.
“Drs. Petit and Walsh’s visionary genetic studies of inherited brain disorders have illuminated how the human brain develops,” says Carla Shatz, the Sapp Family Provostial Professor of Neurobiology and Biology and the Catherine Holman Johnson Director of Stanford Bio-X and member of the Selection Advisory Board to the Prize. “It is wonderful to recognize their contributions with this prestigious award.”