Canada Gairdner International Award for Prof. Peter Hegemann
27 March 2018
UniCat Prof. Peter Hegemann was announced a 2018 Canada Gairdner International Award Laureate, together with Karl Deisseroth, Stanford University, and Edward S. Boyden, MIT. They receive the award “for the discovery of light-gated ion channel mechanisms, and for the discovery of optogenetics, a technology that has revolutionized neuroscience."
The research of the professor for experimental biophysics focused on the characterization of natural sensory photoreceptors, mainly from microalgae. Hegemann has in the past characterized behavioral and photoelectric responses of the unicellular alga, Chlamydomonas. He identified the light-gated channel, the channelrhodopsin, that unifies sensor and ion channel in one protein and demonstrated its functionality in animal cells.
Within UniCat and in cooperation with Karl Deisseroth his group analysed the fundamental principles of the unique channelrhodopsin proteins in molecular detail.
Their work fundamentally enabled the new field of optogenetics: the technology wherein light-activated proteins – first and foremost channelrhodopsin - allow control of selected cells within systems as complex as the mammalian brain.
The Canada Gairdner Awards of the Gairdner Foundation recognize some of the world’s most significant research and biomedical discoveries. The three Laureates receive a 100 000 Canadian Dollar cash honorarium and will be formally presented with their awards on October 25, 2018 at the annual Canada Gairdner Awards Gala in Toronto. "