Published: 05-10-2011 01:00 | Updated: 09-10-2015 14:26

Prize awarded to research into conception and a new method for studying living brain cells

This year's Sven and Ebba-Christina Hagberg Prize is to be awarded to Dr Luca Jovine for his research on conception at a molecular level and to Dr Marie Carlén for her application of an ultramodern light-based technique that revolutionises medical science's knowledge of how the brain works and the causes of brain conditions such as schizophrenia.

Dr Jovine is to receive the prize for revealing the molecular process of fertilisation and for being the first researcher in the world to describe the protein on the egg's surface (matrix). His findings have had profound implications for the treatment of involuntary childlessness and the development of new contraceptives.

"We now have to look at the corresponding proteins on the sperm and understand how these molecules bind to those on the surface of the egg," says Dr Jovine.

Marie Carlén is to receive the prize in recognition of her pioneering studies of cerebral networks using a new technique called optogenetics. She has demonstrated that it is possible to control the activity of different neuron types using laser by adding light-sensitive proteins to the nerve cells. Optogenetics allows researchers to understand neuronal function and how nerve cells control behaviour.

"We're currently mapping which types of neuron give rise to normal brain activity and how this activity changes during mental illness, which will enable the development of new and better psychopharmacological drugs," says Dr Carlén.

The Sven and Ebba-Christina Hagberg Prize was established to stimulate and promote scientific research in the fields of medicine and biochemistry, and awards an annual personal prize and research funding to especially outstanding junior researchers. Nominations are submitted on alternate years by Karolinska Institutet (medicine) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (biochemistry). The prizewinners are to each receive a sum of 350,000 SEK.