In a major step toward establishing the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health as the preeminent facility in its field nationally, a Nobel laureate has agreed to chair its scientific advisory committee.
Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, will become chairman of the center’s Scientific Advisory Board.
Prusiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997 for his research on the cause of mad cow disease — bovine spongiform encephalopathy — and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Prusiner will continue to direct the institute in San Francisco and will collaborate with Cleveland Clinic researchers.
Though Prusiner has focused his research on dementia-causing diseases, his study of prions — infectious agents linked to degenerative ailments — has far-reaching implications for such illnesses as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
“The acceptance of this appointment by Dr. Prusiner will open many doors for us in the scientific community, allowing greater collaboration and more opportunities for breakthroughs,” said Jeffery Cummings, director of the Lou Ruvo Center. “His research on prions, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, is enormously important. We are beginning to believe that many aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders behave in a manner similar to prions.”
The institute’s relationship with Prusiner will be formally announced at the Feb. 18 Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala, a celebration of the life of heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali and fundraising event supporting the Lou Ruvo Center. The legendary boxer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984.
Dozens of top sports and entertainment figures are expected to attend the gala. Seats range from $1,500 to $7,500.
The center, which opened in downtown Las Vegas in July 2009, provides care for cognitive disorders and for the family members of those who suffer from them.
Founded by Larry Ruvo, senior managing partner of Southern Wines and Spirits, in memory of his father, Lou Ruvo, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, the center is housed in a building designed by prominent architect Frank Gehry.
The Cleveland Clinic, founded in 1921, announced its collaboration with the center in February 2009. The multispecialty Ohio facility has pioneered many medical breakthroughs and employs 2,800 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 11,000 nurses representing 120 medical specialties and subspecialties.