Columbia scientist wins 10th Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

The Perl prize carries a $10,000 award and is given to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience.

Media contact: Leslie Lang (919) 966-9366,

Friday, April 30, 2010

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named Thomas M. Jessell, PhD as the recipient of the 10th Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize.

Jessell is the Claire Tow Professor in the departments of neuroscience, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University. He is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

The Perl prize carries a $10,000 award and is given to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience. Past recipients have included four subsequent winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Edward R. Perl, MD is Sarah Graham Kenan professor of cell and molecular physiology at UNC School of Medicine. Perl’s work in pain mechanisms has been highly influential. Thirty years ago, he was the first to prove that a particular class of nerve cells (now called nociceptors) responds exclusively to stimuli that are perceived as painful. These cells now are targets of intensive efforts to find drugs that block their function.

This year’s Perl Prize is being awarded to Jessell for defining the molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of neural circuits.

“Dr. Jessell and his group have discovered molecules that direct the formation of neural circuits in the spinal cord that underlie walking and other movements.  These studies serve as a model for understanding how circuits are constructed throughout the nervous system,” said William D. Snider, PhD, director of the UNC Neuroscience Center and head of the selection committee for the prize.

School of Medicine Dean William L. Roper will present the award at 3 p.m., May 4 on the UNC campus in G202, Medical Biomolecular Research Building.

Jessell will deliver the Perl Prize lecture immediately following the ceremony.

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