Deisseroth to receive Harvey Prize in Human Health

Karl Deisseroth is one of two recipients of the 2016 Harvey Prize in Human Health, which is being awarded for the development of optogenetics.

Karl Deisseroth

Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, the D.H. Chen Professor and a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will be awarded the 2016 Harvey Prize in Human Health.

Deisseroth and Peter Hegemann, PhD, professor and chief of biophysics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, will share the $75,000 prize for their contributions to optogenetics.

“It is a great honor to receive the Harvey Prize in Human Health, which has a long and distinguished history in recognizing basic science discoveries, and I’m delighted to share the prize with my co-laureate and collaborator Peter Hegemann,” Deisseroth said.

Optogenetics entails the installation of light-sensitive proteins, called opsins and derived from microbial organisms, into specific cells in a living, freely moving mammal. These cells can be either excited or inhibited by laser light, which is delivered via an implanted optical fiber.

The ability to turn on or turn off electrical activity in a set of cells in the brain allows researchers to gain insights into the causal mechanisms behind the organ’s normal workings, as well as defects in function that accompany brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, depression and schizophrenia. Optogenetics has also been used to turn on and off electrical activity in heart and kidney cells and in other tissues.

The Harvey prize, established with money from the estate of industrialist and inventor Leo Harvey, recognizes researchers who have made breakthroughs in science and technology of benefit to humanity. Optogenetics has “revolutionized neurobiology,” the prize administrators wrote.

Deisseroth will accept the prize in June at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. In addition to the prize in human health, a Harvey Prize in Science and Technology will be awarded to three researchers for contributions to the understanding and observation of gravitational waves. 



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. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

Leading in Precision Health

Stanford Medicine is leading the biomedical revolution in precision health, defining and developing the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive and precise. 

A Legacy of Innovation

Stanford Medicine's unrivaled atmosphere of breakthrough thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration has fueled a long history of achievements.