Stanley B. Prusiner
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1997
Born: 28 May 1942, Des Moines, IA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for his discovery of Prions - a new biological principle of infection”
Prize share: 1/1
Stanley Prusiner was born in Des Moines, Iowa, USA and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father worked as an architect. Prusiner studied chemistry and then medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, where he received his MD in 1968. After military service at the US Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, he moved to the University of California San Francisco in 1972 and has been working there since then. Stanley Prusiner is married and has two children.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and related illnesses affecting people and animals involve the degeneration of brain cells. In 1982 Stanley Prusiner was able to isolate a suspected infectious agent, a protein that Prusiner called a prion. He identified the gene behind the prion protein, but determined that it is also present in healthy people and animals. Prusiner showed that the prion molecules are folded in a different way than the normal proteins and that the folding of the prion can be transferred to normal proteins. This is the basis for the illness.