Vilcek Foundation honours renowned neuroscientist


The Vilcek Foundation has honoured a renowned neuroscientist in its 2014 prizes, which recognise the contributions of immigrants to the American arts and sciences.

British-born neuroscientist Thomas M Jessell was named as the winner of the 2014 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science. Jessell, the Claire Tow professor in the departments of Neuroscience and Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University, was selected for his pioneering work in discovering the principles of the molecular mechanisms that direct neuronal diversity and circuit assembly in the vertebrate central nervous system. 

“We are honoured to bestow the Vilcek Prize for Biomedical Science on such a ground-breaking figure in the field of neuroscience,” says Jan Vilcek, president of the Vilcek Foundation. “His work has opened up many new avenues of inquiries into one of the most unknown—and important—fields of biomedical research.”

Jessell’s research investigates the developmental assembly of the vertebrate central nervous system and has broadened the study of mammalian neural development from a descriptive science to a molecular and mechanistic one. Jessell’s lab focuses not only on understanding the logic of the motor system organisation, but also on combining neuro-computation and bio-mechanics studies to elucidate how the nervous system interacts with the skeletal muscle control system. His work has shed light on developmental abnormalities in the central nervous system and has paved the way for new treatment possibilities, using neural stem cells, for degenerative diseases affecting motor neurons and for spinal cord injuries.