Professor Gero Miesenböck has received The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2020 "for the development of optogenetics, a technology that has revolutionized neuroscience."
Optogenetics is a technique that uses light to control the activity of nerve cells. It provides a direct means of probing the organisation of neural circuits and of identifying the brain processes underlying perception, action, emotion, and thought. Professor Miesenböck was the first to demonstrate optogenetic control of neural activity and animal behaviour. His foundational studies led to an explosion in optogenetic applications and technical improvements.The field has ultimately transformed neuroscientific research and opened new possibilities for the treatment of brain disorders.
On receiving the award, Professor Miesenböck said: “I’m delighted that the selection committee looked carefully at the history of optogenetics and recognised the first discoveries that launched the field.”
Head of Department Professor David Paterson said: "This is a major achievement representing international excellence in research and discovery. The Department is delighted that Gero has been duly recognised."
Professor Miesenböck shares the award with Peter Hegemann, Hertie Professor for Neuroscience and Head of the Department of Biophysics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and Georg Nagel, Professor for Molecular Plant-Physiology, Department for Molecular Plant-Physiology and Biophysics–Botany I at the University of Würzburg.
The Shaw Prize consists of three annual prizes: Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, each bearing a monetary award of $1.2 million. The Prize honours individuals who have achieved significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research and whose works have resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind.