Clinatec Chairman Alim-Louis Benabid Wins Breakthrough Prize


First French Scientist to Win Award Says Successes Point to New Ways to Use Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat Many other Neurodegenerative Diseases.


GRENOBLE, France – Nov. 10, 2014 – Prof. Alim-Louis Benabid, board chairman of the Edmond J. Safra Biomedical Research Center Clinatec, has won a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his pioneering work in developing deep brain stimulation to relieve symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.

The award highlights ongoing research at Clinatec that is exploring ways to use deep brain stimulation and other neurological disorder treatments to overcome therapeutic deadlocks and improve diagnosis and treatment to fight neurodegenerative diseases, cancers and motor disabilities.

The $3 million award is given annually to each of six scientists by the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, a new organization created by some of the world’s most prominent high-tech entrepreneurs. It honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life. One prize per year recognizes work contributing to the understanding of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

This is the second major award that Benabid, who also is the founder of Clinatec, has received for his PD work this year.

In September, he received the 2014 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation in New York City, along with Dr. Mahlon R. DeLong, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine. Like that award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors Benabid for his work in developing high-frequency deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus, a surgical technique that reduces tremors and restores motor function in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease (PD).

“It is a profound honor to receive a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which highlights the importance of developing innovative treatments for neurodegenerative diseases,” said Benabid, who also is a professor emeritus of biophysics at Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble. “One key area of research by our diverse medical and scientific teams at Clinatec is adapting deep brain stimulation to treat a wide variety of these diseases. This is a very promising time in this important area.”

“Professor Benabid personifies the expertise and dedication that lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, disabilities and cancer, which are at the center of Clinatec’s research and development,” said Jean Therme, director of technical research at CEA, the French alternative energies and atomic energy research institute that helped launch Clinatec. “The Breakthrough Prize and his many other awards offer encouragement to scientists and physicians at Clinatec and elsewhere who are dedicating their careers to improving the lives of patients.”

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, which also recognizes exceptional work in fundamental physics and mathematics, is sponsored by some of the world’s biggest high-tech names. Founders include Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the genetics company 23andMe; Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; the Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia Milner, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences award was presented to Benabid and the other winners on Nov. 9 in Silicon Valley, Calif. The award ceremony will be televised in the U.S. as a simulcast on Discovery Channel and Science Channel on Nov. 15 and globally the weekend of Nov. 22 on BBC World News.

Read more: Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation