Karl Deisseroth wins 2020 Heineken Prize for Medicine

Karl Deisseroth was awarded the prize for developing optogenetics, which enables remote manipulation of nerve cells using light, and hydrogel-tissue chemistry, which lets light and molecular probes travel through biological tissue

- By Bruce Goldman

Karl Deisseroth was awarded the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
Steve Fisch

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, its 2020 Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine

The $200,000 prize is given biennially, in recognition of pioneering work in medicine, to a researcher whose achievements have led or are expected to lead to an important application in medical practice.

Medicine is one of five science categories for which the prize is awarded. The prizes are the Netherlands’ most prestigious awards in the arts and sciences. Recipients are chosen by an international jury of distinguished scientists.

Deisseroth is receiving the Heineken Prize for developing two technologies: optogenetics, which enables researchers to use light to influence the activity of nerve cells, and hydrogel-tissue chemistry, which renders biological tissue accessible to light and molecular probes. Both discoveries play an important role in current brain research.

 “I’m honored to have shared this long and exciting journey with my amazingly talented students, postdoctoral fellows, staff and collaborators,” said Deisseroth, who is also the D.H. Chen Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “It took many years for us to develop optogenetics in the lab — as with hydrogel-tissue chemistry — and it is a great message for the prize in medicine to be awarded for long-term basic-science discovery.” 

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