UF Neuroscientists Available for Comment After Mentors Receive Lasker Award

8-Sep-2014 11:00 AM EDT

University of Florida

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For media inquiries call Morgan Sherburne at 352-273-9959 or e-mail msherburne@ufl.edu.

Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Health neuroscientists will be available for comment on the recipients of The Lasker Foundation’s Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

Mahlon DeLong, a neurologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, and Alim-Louis Benabid, emeritus professor of biophysics at the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, were honored for their contributions to improve the clinical treatment of patients.

Micheal S. Okun, M.D., a UF neurologist, studied under DeLong, whereas Kelly D. Foote, a UF neurosurgeon, studied under both DeLong and Benabid. Together, Okun and Foote founded and co-direct the UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. “To me, it’s really fitting that the award is being given to both a neurosurgeon and a neurologist because not only has the therapy helped more than 100,000 people, but it also spawned the idea of people working in teams to address the multiple symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” Okun said, who wrote a Perspectives article about DeLong, Benabid and the state of the field of deep brain stimulation for The New England Journal of Medicine published today (Sept. 8) to coincide with the award’s announcement.Foote may be the only physician to have trained under both DeLong and Benabid.

“The whole deep brain stimulation therapy movement could never have happened without the contributions of Mahlon DeLong and what he figured out with his team about how brain circuitry worked,” Foote said. “However, that understanding would not have been applied without someone who was as courageous and innovative as Benabid.”

Since Benabid’s first surgery, more than 100,000 patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders have been treated with deep brain stimulation for their symptoms. According to The Lasker Foundation’s website, 47 Lasker laureates in the past three decades have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize.

To watch a TEDx Talk given by Okun and Foote about their work at the University of Florida, follow this link: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxUF-Michael-Okun-and-Kelly-F.

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