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Clinician-scientist who developed Parkinson’s disease breakthrough is awarded the 2015 Taubman Prize

Ann Arbor, Mich. — A physician-scientist whose work has improved quality of life for tens of thousands of Parkinson’s disease patients is the recipient of the 2015 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science, the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute announced.  

Mahlon DeLong, M.D., Professor of Neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine, will receive the $100,000 prize in recognition of his contributions to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. 

DeLong’s research – spanning a 40-year career in medicine and science – identified the anatomical brain circuits involved in the clinical features of Parkinson’s disease and a novel target for surgical intervention, the subthalamic nucleus, a portion of the basal ganglia, brain structures located deep in the brain. 

This finding paved the way for the application of high frequency deep-brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus, a technique now used worldwide for advanced Parkinson’s disease patients.  More than 100,000 individuals have received the treatment, which suppresses tremor and other motor impairments, and  improves the ability to carry out the normal activities of daily living.

“Dr. DeLong’s contribution to improved care and quality of life for patients with devastating movement disorders is remarkable,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Taubman Institute, and a professor at the U-M Medical School.  “He exemplifies the ethos of the dedicated clinician-scientist.  We are honored to recognize his extraordinary contributions by awarding him the Taubman Prize.” 

DeLong was selected by a national panel of eminent medical science experts from among dozens of nominees for the Taubman Prize.  Over decades he and his colleagues have mapped brain activity and deciphered the complex pathways and circuitry involved with the  processing of motor functions, thoughts and emotions.  Insights gained through his basic research, animal models and experiments eventually led to a clearer understanding of the abnormalities in brain circuits in animal models of Parkinson’s and how interruption of a key portion of the motor circuits could dramatically improve clinical features.  

DeLong’s studies contributed greatly to the revival of surgical approaches for treating movement disorders.  The development of the novel technique of high frequency deep-brain stimulation, using implanted electrodes, by Dr. Alim Louis Benabid in Grenoble, France, when applied to the subthalamic nucleus in patients with Parkinson’s produced a similar result as surgical interruption.   DBS, because of its less invasive, reversible and adjustable features, rapidly replaced direct, irreversible destructive lesioning approaches. 

DeLong, the William Timmie Professor of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, will present the keynote address at the Taubman Institute’s annual symposium on Oct. 16, 2015 at the Kahn Auditorium on the U-M medical campus.  The symposium is open to the general public.  

The Taubman Prize was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding translational medical research beyond the University of Michigan.  It includes a $100,000 award and is presented each year to the non-U-M clinician-scientist who has done the most to transform laboratory discoveries into clinical applications for patients suffering from disease. 

Previous recipients are:

2014: Carl June, M.D., of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, for discoveries related to immunotherapy for leukemia using patients’ own T cells.

2013: Brian Druker, M.D., of the Oregon Health & Science University and Charles Sawyers, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for their discoveries related to chronic myeloid leukemia.

2012:  Hal Dietz, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University for his discoveries related to connective tissue disease.


About Mahlon DeLong, M.D.:  DeLong is a key faculty leader of The Jean and Paul Amos Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Research Program. He also is co-director and founder of ENTICe (Emory Neuromodulation and Technology Innovation Center), whose goal is to foster advancement of neuromodulation and the development of innovative neuromodulation technologies for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and  Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an elected member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars.  He is scientific director of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Parkinson Disease Association.

DeLong received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his medical degree from Harvard University. He worked as a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health (1968-1973) completed his residency in Neurology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was a member of the Johns Hopkins faculty (1975-1989). In 1989 he joined Emory University School of Medicine, where he served as chair of the Department of Neurology (1989-2003).

DeLong has received numerous awards including the 2013 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2014 Lasker Award, which recognizes excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. He also received the 2009 American Academy of Neurology Movement Disorders Research Award and the 2008 Movement Disorders Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an elected member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, and is a past chair of the Society for Neuroscience. He is scientific director of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Parkinson Disease Association.

About the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute:  In 2007 Michigan businessman, philanthropist and noted patron of the arts A. Alfred Taubman provided the initial funds to establish the institute bearing his name at the University of Michigan Medical School. Its mission is to provide the university’s finest medical scientists the freedom, resources and collaborative environment they need to push the boundaries of medical discovery, to produce breakthroughs in cures to speed the development of effective treatment for some of the most devastating illnesses. Currently, nearly 40 Taubman Scholars are advancing their research with the assistance of grants from the institute.

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