Hereditary Disease Foundation Awards Prizes to Leaders in Research
The Leslie Gehry Brenner Prize for Innovation in Science was awarded to Elena Cattaneo, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Milan in Italy.
This prize is awarded annually to acknowledge an outstanding scientist who has advanced the search for therapies and potential cures for Huntington’s disease and other brain disorders. The award was created in memory of the late daughter of architect and founding board member Frank Gehry and his family.
Cattaneo leads a laboratory that focuses on the underlying biological processes of Huntington’s disease, which is caused by a faulty HTT gene and which destroys brain cells and leads to a decline in movement, memory, and mood. Her goal is to slow the progression or prevent the onset of Huntington’s using cellular, genetic, and pharmacological strategies.
She also co-founded and currently directs UniStem at the University of Milan, which provides access to stem cell research to more than 100 universities and research centers worldwide.
The Nancy S. Wexler Young Investigator Prize was awarded to Sarah Hernandez, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow and project scientist in a laboratory run by Leslie Thompson, PhD, at the University of California, Irvine.
This prize is awarded annually to a Huntington’s disease researcher early in their career, whose work had demonstrated a high degree of diligence and creative thinking. The prize honors Nancy Wexler, PhD, president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation.
Hernandez’s research is currently funded by the foundation for her work on understanding how interactions between cells affect the permeability of the brain in people with Huntington’s disease. She wanted to be a scientist from the age of 13 and later learned Huntington’s affected her family.
“Research to find treatments and cures for Huntington’s disease is bringing hope to families around the world who are impacted by this devastating disorder,” Meghan Donaldson, CEO of the foundation, said in a press release. “We applaud Elena Cattaneo and Sarah Hernandez for their extraordinary work and thank them for their commitment to scientific exploration that is breaking down barriers and leading to discoveries.”
The foundation supports collaborative research to further the understanding of Huntington’s disease. Investigations led by the foundation have resulted in the discovery of the genetic marker for Huntington’s. The foundation has also funded the international collaboration of more than 100 scientists who discovered the HTT gene underlying Huntington’s.
The awards will be presented to Cattaneo and Hernandez at the Hereditary Disease Foundation Pathways to Discovery Virtual Gala on Nov. 18.