A group of neuroscience pioneers in migraine research awarded 2021 Brain Prize

4th Mar 2021

Brain Prize

The BNA would like to congratulate the four internationally renowned neuroscientists Peter Goadsby (UK/USA), Jes Olesen (Denmark), Lars Edvinsson (Sweden), and Michael Moskowitz (USA). who will today receive The Brain Prize, the world’s most valuable prize in neuroscience, for their discovery of a key mechanism that causes migraine, which has led to revolutionary new treatments.

BNA Chief Executive, Anne Cooke, greeting the news, said: “We are delighted to congratulate these four pioneering neuroscientists from the UK, USA, Denmark and Sweden, for winning the Brain Prize for their ground-breaking work on the causes of migraines.

“It also serves to highlight the incredible value and importance of international collaboration and global partnerships, and what can be achieved within neuroscience when we exchange ideas and share new perspectives together.”  

The Brain Prize, the world’s most prestigious award for brain research, is awarded annually by the Lundbeck FoundationBrain Prize and is worth approximately £1.1million. This year’s winning group of four neuroscientists spanned four decades of research to pave the way for the development of entirely new classes of migraine-specific drugs which are now on the market and are already radically improving the lives of sufferers. 

Professor Richard Morris, chair of the prize’s selection committee, explained the reasoning behind the award: “Migraine is one of the most common and disabling neurological conditions affecting humans. The work of the four recipients contributed to the clinically effective classification of the various types of this disorder, and then to unravel the key mechanisms that cause it. This understanding led to the development of a novel therapy and has opened windows into future ones. Their work on migraine is a remarkable example of bedside-to-bench-to-bedside research that has yielded tangible clinical benefit.”

The Brain Prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Copenhagen on 25 October 2021, presided over by His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Denmark.

Click here for further information on the 2021 Brain Prize.

About this year’s prize winners                   

Peter Goadsby is Australian/British. He is Director of the NIHR-Wellcome Trust King’s Clinical Research Facility at King’s College London in the United Kingdom and is Professor of Neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. He is also Honorary Consultant Neurologist at King’s College Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond St, London. He obtained his medical degree at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia. After post-doctoral work in New York, Paris, and post-graduate neurology training in London he returned to UNSW, and the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney as a consultant neurologist and became an Associate Professor of Neurology.

Jes Olesen is Danish and is a Professor of Neurology in the Department of Clinical Neurology, at the University of Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, Denmark. He studied at the University of Copenhagen. His neurological education included a residency at Cornell Medical School, New York, and a volunteer period at the National Hospital Queen Square, London, UK. He is the father of the International Headache Classification and has identified several signaling mechanisms in migraine leading to new drug targets and registered drugs. He founded and for many years led the Danish Headache Center where he is still an attending physician.

Lars Edvinsson is Swedish and a Professor of Internal Medicine at Lund University, Sweden. He is also President of the International Headache Society and Professor in Clinical Pharmacology at Copenhagen University. He trained at Lund University Medical Faculty and graduated as MD with PhD in 1980. He became a full professor at Lund University and senior consultant at the University Hospital in Lund in 2002. He is also the founder of the Glostrup Research Institute and has been its leader for the last 15 years. He is a leading expert in the field of cerebral circulation and migraine.

Michael Moskowitz is American and a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School at the Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.  Professor Moskowitz received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University School of Medicine.  After becoming certified by the American Boards in both internal medicine and neurology, he did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and remained on its faculty for 6 years in full time research.  His research focuses on translational mechanisms underlying migraine and stroke and is credited with foundational discoveries that ushered in modern day migraine therapeutics. 

About migraines

Migraine is much more than a bad headache. It is a serious neurological disease with symptoms that include severe throbbing and recurring head pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell.  Some migraine attacks can last for several days and more than four million people suffer at least 15 migraine attacks per month. For many, migraine severely diminishes the quality of life, including the ability to work, and can lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. The economic and societal costs associated with migraine are extremely high - in the tens of billions of dollars worldwide.

Treatments for migraine have been available for some time, but they can have significant side effects and can only help to relieve the symptoms, not prevent migraine. There was, therefore, an urgent need to develop new classes of migraine-specific drugs.

Understanding a fundamental biological mechanism that triggers a migraine has led to the development of entirely new and effective classes of migraine treatments that received FDA approval in the United States in 2018. Patients have remarked that these drugs have “given them their life back”.

The development of CGRP antagonist drugs has opened a new era in migraine research and therapy. Although they do not cure migraine, they markedly improve the quality of life of many migraineurs. They are also the first drugs to have a duality of mechanism, being active in both the acute treatment and the prevention of attacks, and they have paved the way for the study of other potential targets.

About The Brain Prize

The Brain Prize is the world’s largest prize for brain research and is awarded each year by the Lundbeck Foundation. The award is worth 10 million DKK (approx. €1.3 million) and is given to one or more neuroscientists who have had a ground-breaking impact in the field.

The Brain Prize is awarded at a ceremony in Copenhagen, presided over by His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Denmark. This year it will take place on 25 October.

The Brain Prize recognises highly original and influential advances in any area of brain research, from basic neuroscience to applied clinical research. Winners may be of any nationality and work in any country around the globe. The Brain Prize was first awarded in 2011 and has so far honoured 34 scientists from 9 different countries.

The Prize and associated activities are a celebration of outstanding achievements in neuroscience and are at the forefront of the Lundbeck Foundation’s ambitions to make Denmark a world leading neuroscience nation.


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