Published: 27-08-2013 00:00 | Updated: 13-02-2014 13:13

Researcher with a feel for nerve cells wins the Erik K. Fernström Prize

Tibor Harkany, Professor of Neurobiology, has been awarded the Erik K. Fernström Prize for his discoveries concerning the structure and function of nerve cells.

Tibor Harkany holds a position at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet. His professorship includes a specialization in the molecular mechanisms of synapse development.

His research group has published a number of ground-breaking studies in Science magazine and other well-respected and frequently cited scientific journals. These studies have yielded new and important insights into connections in the brain, and how communication is regulated on the cellular level. His accomplishments include showing that a group of native-to-the-body signal molecules, known as endocannabinoid receptors, play a key role in the development of the brain. These molecules produce their effects through cannabinoid receptors, which also serve as targets for substances that pass into the brain during cannabis smoking. He made the crucial discovery that this drug can prevent the nerve cells from reaching their proper locations in the brain of a foetus, thus leading to permanent damage.

"With outstanding energy and focused research, Tibor Harkany has produced important results that contribute to an in-depth understanding of the principles that control structure and function in nerve cells", says Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren, Dean of Research, and Chairman of the Award Committee. Harkany's research has great significance for our understanding of psychiatric, neurodegenerative and dependence-related diseases.

Professor Harkany is now conducting research on how a still relatively unknown protein, secretagogin, functions on the molecular level. It has been learned that this protein is formed in the brain and in endocrine cells, and is a biomarker for neuroendocrine tumours and brain tumours. An increased understanding of the function of secretagogin can be of clinical importance.

The Eric K. Fernström Foundation was established in 1978 to promote medical scientific research. The primary objective of the Foundation is to award annual monetary prizes to researchers who have made important contributions to medical science. Eric Fernström was keen to encourage young researchers, and so every year the Foundation awards a Nordic Prize and six additional Prizes to young scientists. Each of the country's medical faculties selects its own prize-winner. The Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Lund on 6 November, 2013. Tibor Harkany will also be honoured at Karolinska Institutet's installation ceremony in the Aula Medica auditorium on 24 October, 2013.


Tibor Harkany

Organizational unit: Department of Neuroscience (Neuro), C4