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J. William Langston, MD, Awarded 2012 Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson's Research by The Michael J. Fox Foundation

NEW YORK— The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced today that J. William Langston, MD, scientific director and chief executive officer of The Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, is the recipient of the 2012 Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research. The prize honors both current cutting-edge research as well as an individual’s entire body of work. Dr. Langston was selected for his profound contributions to Parkinson’s disease therapeutic development and his exceptional commitment to mentoring the next generation of Parkinson’s researchers. He will receive a $100,000 unrestricted grant to advance his current research.

“Bill has long been a true pioneer in the field of PD research, and a real mentor to so many,” said Todd Sherer, CEO, MJFF. “Since his groundbreaking work to advance scientific understanding of PD, as chronicled in The Case of the Frozen Addicts, he has continued to develop innovative strategies in the search for a disease-modifying therapy for PD. Whether through his own research or advising the Foundation on the work of others, he always has patients’ benefit at the forefront of his mind. Our Foundation has been fortunate to partner with him since our earliest days. His counsel has been invaluable, and his integrity and belief in a collaborative approach are inspiring.”

“As someone who has spent their career working on Parkinson’s disease, I am honored and inspired to have been selected for the Pritzker Prize,” said Dr. Langston. “Having had the opportunity of knowing Bob Pritzker and working intimately with The Michael J. Fox Foundation from the earliest days makes this Prize all the more meaningful. Indeed, it adds a powerful incentive to all of us here at The Parkinson’s Institute to accelerate our efforts more than ever to solve this most difficult disease.”

MJFF’s founding chief scientific advisor, Langston has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the role of environmental factors in the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease. Since his landmark discovery of the biological effects of MPTP, a neurotoxin widely used in the study of Parkinson’s disease, Langston continues to accelerate toward a cure with continued research in the study of mechanisms of neuronal degeneration, the etiology of Parkinson’s disease, and the development of new strategies to slow or halt disease progression. Additionally, he founded The Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, to create an institute where research could be done in an environment that allowed for an integrated approach to basic research, clinical research and patient care.

The prize is named in honor of the late Robert A. Pritzker, a renowned industrialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Pritzker was founder of The Marmon Group and president of Colson Associates, Inc., holding companies for a variety of manufacturing and medical businesses. He attributed much of his success to his unique approach to management. As a business leader, Pritzker always sought to establish a creative and productive work environment by encouraging his employees to work independently. Additionally, he was an early promoter of the field of medical engineering at his alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, where he also played a key role in expanding the biomedical research community through his support of The Pritzker Institute for Biomedical Science and Engineering at IIT. Launched in 1980, this center has opened new areas of cutting-edge biomedical study and expanded the university’s presence in the greater research community.

The Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research is made possible by Karen Pritzker, daughter of Robert A. Pritzker, and her husband, investor Michael Vlock. Their gift of $1.5M over three years (starting in 2011) provides a $100,000 grant to the Pritzker Prize recipient each year, as well as $400,000 to support allied MJFF research programs.

“My father’s legacy lives on in this prize, which recognizes the scientists who make it their life’s work to convert early-stage Parkinson’s discoveries into practical, patient-relevant treatments — and train their students to do the same,” says Karen Pritzker. “Our greatest hope is that this award will help bring a cure closer for the millions whose lives are touched by this disease.”

The Executive Scientific Advisory Board of The Michael J. Fox Foundation served as the jury panel. Selection criteria included: the nominee’s complete body of work in the PD field with an emphasis on its impact on accelerating drug development; field-wide impact of the nominee’s work; dedication to patient-relevant science; and influence on and encouragement of the next generation of Parkinson’s disease investigators.

The award, designed by renowned artist and Parkinson’s patient Tom Shannon, is being presented to Dr. Langston by Michael J. Fox at a luncheon today in New York City.

About Robert A. Pritzker (1926–2011)

Robert A. Pritzker was a member of a prominent family in American business and philanthropy. In 1954 he became president of the Colson Company, manufacturer of industrial and institutional casters and wheeled equipment. His leadership led to the acquisition of other companies, which in 1964 were merged under the name The Marmon Group. Over the years, he also has served on the board of directors of several institutions. A Chicago native, Pritzker entered California Institute of Technology as an engineering student before transferring to the Illinois Institute of Technology to complete his undergraduate studies. Pritzker later completed graduate-level business and industrial administration courses as the University of Illinois. His commitment to education led him to teach at IIT, the University of Chicago and as a visiting professor at Oxford University in England. Pritzker was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1998.

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

As the world’s largest private funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $285 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. Now through December 31, 2012, all new and increased giving to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, as well as gifts from donors who have not given since 2010 or earlier, will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with the $50-million Brin Wojcicki Challenge, launched by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki.

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