Professor Gero Miesenböck, the Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, is one of four scientists to receive the 2019 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize for his pioneering work in the field of optogenetics. Optogenetics uses light and genetic modification to control the activity of cells in the brain, allowing researchers to precision-target neurons in the brain and study how the activity of these cells contributes to simple and complex behaviors. Professor Miesenböck played a crucial role in the field, being the first to demonstrate optogenetic control of neural activity and animal behaviour. His subsequent discoveries on the neural basis of reward, the regulation and function of sleep, and the control of sexually dimorphic behaviour proved the utility of optogenetics for neurobiological research.
On receiving the award, Professor Gero Miesenböck said: “I am delighted to be in such good company, and I’m not talking just about my co-laureates. Many of my scientific heroes are among the previous recipients of the Warren Alpert Prize.”
Professor Gero Miesenböck was honoured alongside Edward Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT, Karl Deisseroth, the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University and Peter Hegemann, the Hertie professor of Neuroscience at Humboldt University of Berlin.
The Warren Alpert Foundation, in association with Harvard Medical School, honours scientists whose work has improved the understanding, prevention, treatment or cure of human disease.
The honourees will share a $500,000 prize and will be recognised at a daylong symposium on 3 October at Harvard Medical School.