Karl Deisseroth shares Lasker Award for research on microbial molecules behind optogenetics - Stanford Medical Center Report
Sep 24, 2021 2 mins, 56 secs

Students from far and near begin medical studies at Stanford.

Stanford School of Medicine.

Karl Deisseroth is a co-recipient of the 2021 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

Decades of high-risk research, driven by a combination of curiosity and passion, have earned neuroscientist and bioengineer Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, one of the most respected science prizes in the world.

Deisseroth, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of bioengineering at Stanford, has been named a co-recipient of this year’s Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

Chen Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, shares the $300,000 award with Peter Hegemann, PhD, professor of biophysics at Humboldt University of Berlin, and Dieter Oesterhelt, PhD, emeritus group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. .

 “Karl Deisseroth’s astounding imagination has traversed disparate disciplines, including genetics, optics, structural biology and virology to spark the creation of optogenetics,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine.

“It was clear early on that optogenetics would have a transformative effect on neuroscience,” said Liqun Luo, PhD, a professor of biology at Stanford.

Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, the Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and deputy director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford, in whose laboratory Deisseroth spent a lot of time early in his career, jokingly calls Deisseroth a “surfer dude.” .

His father was a physician and professor, and his mother was a high school chemistry teacher.

It wasn’t until his final year as a medical student that a clinical rotation in psychiatry piqued his interest in that discipline. .

“Psychiatry was full of mystery,” Deisseroth said.

He took up a Stanford residency in psychiatry, spending long hours in the psychiatric ward — and acquiring experiences and insights that served as a basis for Projections, his recently published book about his efforts to understand mental disorders from the perspective of the patient, doctor and scientist.

Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (who was then chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences), and Scott Delp, PhD, the James H.

Clark Professor in the School of Engineering (who was then chair of bioengineering), helped direct to him. ?

In 2005, Deisseroth, now an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of bioengineering, published the first paper in Nature Neuroscience describing how this initial step worked.

In December 2010, the peer-reviewed journal Nature Methods named optogenetics the journal’s “method of the year.” That same month, Science magazine kicked off a roundup of 10 “insights of the decade” with a nod to Deisseroth

“There was an adaption barrier,” Deisseroth said

So Deisseroth set up a free workshop two floors above his lab to teach people how to succeed with it. 

Living on campus with his wife, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, Deisseroth somehow finds time to raise four young kids — ages 13, 11, 8 and 5 — packing their lunches and getting them to school

He also has a 24-year-old son in medical school

To what does Deisseroth himself attribute his success

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford

Stanford scientists, using only direct brain stimulation, reproduced both the brain dynamics and the behavioral response of mice taught to discriminate between two different images

In 2005, a Stanford University scientist discovered how to switch brain cells on or off with light pulses by using special proteins from microbes to pass electrical current into neurons

Stanford Medicine is closely monitoring the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

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