Dr. Peter Goadsby, professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has been chosen as one of four recipients of the Brain Prize 2021. The prize honors scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the field of neuroscience. Dr. Goadsby will receive a personal prize of 2.5 million Danish kroner, or about $400,000.
The Brain Prize, awarded annually by the Lundbeck Foundation since 2011, is the world’s largest prize for outstanding achievement in neuroscience research. All aspects of brain research are considered, from basic neuroscience to applied clinical studies.
Dr. Goadsby and three of his colleagues are receiving the 2021 prize for their work unraveling the cause of migraine. Their findings have led to effective treatments that are giving new hope to people suffering from migraine.
“It is an enormous privilege to receive the Brain Prize. It’s really a prize for all the people who have suffered for so long with headache disorders, and for all the excellent scientists who have made an important contribution to this field,” Goadsby said. “I feel privileged to help the incredibly brave patients do just a little better.”
Migraine headaches affect more than 38 million people, mostly women, in the United States and more than 1 billion people worldwide. Although it is one of the oldest diseases, migraine has been poorly understood and undertreated until recently.
In his research, Dr. Goadsby identified the role of a molecule called calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP, as a cause of migraine. Working with Dr. Lars Edvinsson of Lund University in Sweden, Dr. Goadsby showed that the trigeminal nerve, which detects sensation in the face, releases CGRP during a migraine attack. Later work confirmed that a migraine could be triggered by giving people CGRP. This finding confirmed that the molecule was not only associated with the headache but indeed caused it.
Since then, treatments targeting CGRP have shown excellent success in not only relieving migraine symptoms but potentially preventing them and reducing their frequency. The FDA approved the first anti-CGRP medications in 2018, and new medications continue to be developed. Fast-acting and with few side effects in clinical trials, these medications have been life-changing for patients who suffer from daily or weekly migraine-related headache.
The Lundbeck Foundation, one of Denmark’s largest commercial foundations, created the Brain Prize in 2011 to recognize original and influential research in any area of neuroscience. As part of the program, the honorees participate in outreach activities organized by the foundation. The foundation promotes international collaboration among the neuroscience community as well as efforts to inform the public about neuroscience research challenges and successes.
This year’s Brain Prize was awarded jointly to Goadsby, Edvinsson, Dr. Michael Moskowitz of Harvard University and Dr. Jes Olesen of the University of Copenhagen.