Dimitri Krainc, MD, PhD, chair and Aaron Montgomery Ward Professor of Neurology, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) for his groundbreaking discoveries in the area of neurodegenerative disorders.
NAM is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that serve as adviser for the nation and the international community. Membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors in science and medicine.
“I am extremely honored to receive this recognition. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many lab members and collaborators who have contributed to our research discoveries over the years, and my family whose support makes everything possible. Our work is inspired by patients who suffer from devastating neurodegenerative diseases and their families who depend on us to find new treatments,” said Krainc, who is also director of the Simpson Querrey Center for Neurogenetics.
Throughout his distinguished career, Krainc has studied the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders that have ultimately paved the way for development of novel therapeutics. Informed by genetic causes of disease, his group uncovered key pathogenic mechanisms across different neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In research published in Science, Cell, andNature Medicine, Krainc’s research group was the first to demonstrate dysregulated gene expression early in the pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease. Their discovery of enhanced clearance of mutant huntingtin by autophagy and lysosomes provided a foundation for development of novel therapies.
In a landmark 2011 paper in Cell, his group discovered a mechanism that links Parkinson’s and Gaucher’s diseases via lysosomal glucocerebrosidase. His team also uncovered converging lysosomal and mitochondrial mechanisms in human neurons derived from patients with Parkinson’s disease. This work, published in Science, provides a platform for better translation of preclinical studies to clinical trials. Based on these findings, Krainc’s group developed modulators of lysosomal glucocerebrosidase as potential targeted therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease. Their recent discovery of direct contacts between mitochondria and lysosomes, published in Nature, has fundamental implications for elucidating the role of organelle dynamics in physiological and pathological cellular functions.
Krainc is an inventor on several patents and has founded two biotech companies that are developing targeted therapies for Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative disorders.
He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Javits Award, and more recently the Research Program Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke that provides outstanding investigators with eight years of funding and freedom to conduct long-term innovative research.
Krainc has held leadership roles in various national and international organizations including the American Neurological Association, where he currently serves on Board of Directors. He is also an elected member of the Association of American Physicians, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to medicine.