EMET Prize to Prof. Michal Schwartz
Award honors outstanding achievement in brain immunology and impact on aging and dementia
Prof. Michal Schwartz of the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science was chosen as a 2019 recipient of the EMET Prize in Life Sciences Bio-Medicine Award, given in Israel by the A.M.N. Foundation. She is being honored for her groundbreaking biomedical research.
Prof. Schwartz is renowned for her revolutionary contributions to brain research, showing the role of the immune system in maintaining the brain’s health, and helping mitigate its dysfunction. Her pioneering research in neuroimmunology has overturned the long-held belief that the brain is completely isolated from the immune system by the blood-brain barrier. She showed, against the prevailing dogma, that the immune system is a major player in the functioning of the healthy brain, in the development of brain diseases, and in the healing process. The revolutionary findings initiated by Prof. Schwartz have far-reaching implications for understanding the mystery of brain diseases, a variety of mental illnesses, and neurodegenerative conditions.
Over the years, using a step-by-step approach, Prof. Schwartz and her lab team have deciphered the mechanisms underlying the communication between the brain and the immune cells in health, and in acute and chronic brain degeneration. They showed that blood-borne immune cells participate in the life-long maintenance of the brain, and identified the site in the brain where this communication takes place. Their research showed that neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia, are intimately connected to dysfunction of the immune system.
Prof. Schwartz's studies over the last 20 years provided the basis for her recent development of a novel immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease by harnessing the immune system to support the brain. The new approach was able to reduce symptoms, and even reverse cognitive loss, in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. The immunotherapy approach is a potential game-changer in treating neurodegenerative conditions, and has the potential to provide a comprehensive treatment for Alzheimer's disease, whose rising incidence has devastating consequences worldwide.
Prof. Schwartz's discoveries over the years have had a pervasive impact the scientific community, as manifested by the high citation score of her papers, and the large number of students and post-doctoral researchers she has mentored who are themselves now leaders in their fields.
She summarized her decades of groundbreaking discoveries in a book published for lay readers in 2015 entitled Neuroimmunity: How Brain Science Will Revolutionize the Way We Live and Age.
Some of her recent honors include serving as the elected President of the International Society of Neuroimmunology (2016-2018). She has also received the Blumberg Prize for excellence in medical science (2015), and the Rappaport Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to biomedical research (2017). She was twice awarded the most competitive and prestigious European research grant, the Advanced European Research Commission award. This year she was chosen as the Mentor of the Year by the Israeli Society of Neuroscience.
Prof. Michal Schwartz is supported by the Sagol Institute for Longevity Research, the Thompson Family Foundation Alzheimer's Disease Research Fund, the Adelis Foundation, the Rowland & Sylvia Schaefer Family Foundation, and the Carla Hunter and Andre M. Schub. Prof. Schwartz is the incumbent of the Maurice and Ilse Katz Professorial Chair of Neuroimmunology.