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Gregory A. Petsko, PhD
Senior Investigator, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Professor, Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Neurology
Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115

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Research Narrative:
Gregory A. Petsko, D. Phil. is Professor of Neurology at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases in the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. From 2012-2018 he was Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, where he was also Director of the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer’s Disease Research Institute. He received his BA from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1970, and his D. Phil. from Oxford University (which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar) in Molecular Biophysics in 1973.  He was Professor of Chemistry at MIT from 1978 until 1990, when he moved to Brandeis University as Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, where he also served as Director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry. He moved to Weill Cornell Medical College in April 2012 and to Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston in 2019. He is married to Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

His awards include the Siddhu Award and the Martin J. Buerger Award, both from the American Crystallographic Association (35 years apart), the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (for development of methods to visualize reaction intermediates in three dimensions at atomic resolution), the Lynen Medal for pioneering contributions to the study of protein dynamics, the McKnight Endowment for Neuroscience Brain Disorders Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1991 the Max Planck Prize, shared with Professor Roger Goody of Heidelberg for their joint work on the molecular origins of Ras-dependent human cancers. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.  He has an honorary Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University.  He is Past-President both of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and past Chair of the Medical Sciences Section of the AAAS. 

His research interests focus on the development of new treatments for age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and the development of better models for brain disorders. For ALS/Frontotemporal Dementia he has been focusing on developing a novel gene therapy that targets RNA homeostasis by modulating the functions of factors involved in nonsense mediated mRNA decay, work he is carrying out in collaboration with Prof. Dagmar Ringe of Brandeis University. For Alzheimer’s disease he has worked closely with Dr. Scott Small of Columbia University to find gene therapies that would normalize retromer-dependent endosomal protein trafficking in vulnerable neurons. Both these projects are nearing human clinical trials. For Parkinson’s disease and the related disorder Multiple System Atrophy his focus has been on drug therapies to protect dopaminergic neurons from toxic alpha-synuclein species, but more recently he has bene investigating the possible role of endosomal protein trafficking in this disease as well.

His public lectures on the aging of the population and its implications for human health have attracted a wide audience in person and on the Internet (one of his TED talks, for example, has been viewed over a million times).  For many years he has also written a widely-read and much reprinted column on science and society, the first ten years of which are available in book form.  He admits, however, that the columns guest-written by his two dogs, Mink and Clifford, are much more popular than those he writes himself.