Adriano Aguzzi, NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Awardee 2019

Adriano Aguzzi is professor and director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland. He has dedicated most of his professional life to understanding the molecular basis of prion diseases, combining transgenetics with molecular and immunological techniques. He clarified the crucial steps in the pathogenesis of the disease, discovered the cells and molecules involved in prion neuroinvasion, and elucidated the mechanisms leading to brain damage in these diseases. Aguzzi’s discoveries are enabling novel approaches to the diagnosis, prophylaxis and therapy of prion diseases and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Among numerous other honors, Aguzzi has been awarded the Ernst Jung Prize, the Robert Koch Award, the EMBO Gold Medal of the European Molecular Biology Organization, the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize and the Baillet Latour Health Prize, as well as two ERC Advanced Grants from the European Research Council. He holds three honorary doctorates from the Universities of Bologna, Teramo and Liège.

The NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Award is enabling Aguzzi to continue his investigation into the fundamental mechanisms of neurodegeneration. Despite decades of extensive research and impressive advances in understanding their genetics and biochemistry, the most prevalent neurodegenerative diseases — Alzheimer’s disease and vascular encephalopathy — remain essentially untreatable. This sobering situation has prompted Aguzzi to question whether the fundamental mechanisms of neurodegeneration have yet been discovered. Based on past experience, progress may come through the deployment of novel technologies — particularly by taking advantage of unbiased, hypothesis-free paradigms.

Aguzzi’s NOMIS-funded project, entitled Exploring the Locales of Cognitive Decline: Cellular and Molecular 3D Atlases of Brain Pathology in Aging and in Neurodegeneration, proposes the combining of high-content three-dimensional morphology with sophisticated fluorochrome chemistry and molecular methods of genome interrogation/perturbation. These techniques will enable the creation of detailed atlases of the cell types that drive damage in various models of neurodegeneration.

Adriano Aguzzi received an MD from the University of Freiburg, Germany, in 1986. After postdoctoral studies in Vienna, Austria, he obtained the venia legendi in neuropathology at the University of Zürich in 1993. In 1997 he was appointed professor of neuropathology and director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zürich.

For more information about Adriano Aguzzi and his work, please see his faculty profile.