Director, Program for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience
Co-Director, Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases
Dennis Selkoe is the Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A graduate of Columbia University and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, he trained at the National Institutes of Health, the Harvard/ Longwood Neurology Program and the Department of Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School (HMS). Selkoe and coworkers isolated the neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and discovered their unusual insolubility and antigenic relationship to tau. He subsequently conducted extensive research on amyloid ß-protein (Aß) and its precursor (APP) and helped formulate a theory of AD causation, the “amyloid hypothesis”. In 1992, Selkoe and colleagues discovered that Aß is produced by normal cells throughout life, enabling the dynamic study of Aß generation and screens for Aß inhibitors. The lab showed that mutations in APP and, later, presenilin cause AD by increasing Aß production. Selkoe and his colleague, Michael Wolfe, identified presenilin as ß-secretase, an unprecedented intramembrane aspartyl protease that processes APP, Notch and many other proteins in all metazoans. His lab has applied similar approaches to alpha-synuclein, the key misfolded protein of Parkinson’s disease.
Selkoe has also focused on the translation of his discoveries on the cause and mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease into therapeutic approaches. His many scientific articles in Nature, Science, Neuron and other journals have provided the underpinnings of numerous disease-modifying trials currently underway. Dr. Selkoe was the principal founding scientist of Athena Neurosciences, later part of Elan Pharmaceuticals. With HMS Dean Joseph P. Martin, he founded the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center in 2001. He has received many honors, including the A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine, the Mathilde Solowey Award in the Neurosciences (NIH), the Potamkin Prize (American Academy of Neurology), the Pioneer Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, Alzheimer’s Association, the George C. Cotzias Lecture of the American Academy of Neurology and the Ulysses Medal of University College Dublin. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Neurology and a member of the National Academy of Medicine. He is now a founding director of Prothena Biosciences.