Researching Brain Diseases

Even today there are many unknowns when it comes to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain cancer, epilepsy and depression, and we still can’t fully comprehend these diseases that afflict so many in our society. The Brain Diseases Fund was set up to find answers to some of the most pressing questions in this area.

The Brain Diseases Fund promotes non-clinical basic research at the University of Zurich by supporting junior researchers. The UZH Foundation uses the funds to hand out annual prizes to young scientists for their outstanding contributions in the field of brain diseases. The UZH Award for Research in Brain Diseases was first awarded in 2006. The awarding of funds is overseen by an advisory board.

Apply for the Brain Diseases Award

Are you a PhD candidate looking to boost your research on brain diseases? Apply for the Brain Diseases Award and present your findings to our prestigious panel of experts. The UZH Foundation awards yearly prizes (of CHF 10,000 each) for outstanding research among all submissions. Here you can find informations on the rules for applicants. Please submit your application in full as a PDF file by 30 April to Prof. Dr. Amedeo Caflisch.

Rules for Applicants Brain Diseases Award

The advisory board is made up of the following members:

  • Prof. Dr. Amedeo Caflisch, Department of Biochemistry UZH
  • Prof. Dr. Sebastian Jessberger, Brain Research Institute UZH
  • Prof. Dr. Ben Schuler, Department of Biochemistry UZH

Daniel Gonzalez Bohorquez: Award Winner 2023

Research Focus

The proliferation and fate-specification of neural stem cells (NSC) are crucial for corticogenesis. However, the role of metabolic changes in cortical development remains unknown. To investigate this, we inhibited lipid synthesis in the developing cortex of mice and human forebrain organoids, resulting in microcephaly. Moreover, a human variant of fatty acid synthase was correlated with cognitive impairment. By using disease-modelling, we established a link between lipid synthesis, NSC proliferation, and cognition in both mice and humans. In both species, the mutation led to lipotoxic endoplasmic reticulum-stress and NSC proliferation defects. Overall, these findings highlight the fundamental and conserved nature of lipid-metabolic control in brain development, neurogenesis, and cognition.

Manuela Perez Berlanga: Award Winner 2023

Research Focus

TDP-43 is a nuclear protein that oligomerizes to perform various roles in the metabolism of RNA. However, in the neurons of ALS and FTD patients, TDP-43 aggregates in the cytoplasm, losing its function. How oligomerization is required for TDP-43 physiology and whether its loss drives TDP-43 pathology is poorly understood. We show that oligomerization and RNA binding are both required to perform physiological functions and maintain TDP-43 nuclear, and their individual loss promotes TDP-43 aggregation via distinct pathways. Our data broaden the mechanistic understanding of TDP-43 physiology and provide new molecular insights into the aggregate heterogeneity observed in the ALS/FTLD spectrum.

Yi Xiao Jiang: Award Winner 2023

Research Focus

Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the third most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. I extracted protein aggregates known as “amyloid fibrils” from autopsied brains of four FTLD-TDP patients and imaged them using cryogenic-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Cryo-EM allowed us to analyze the atomic structures of the amyloid fibrils and identify them to be composed of TMEM106B, a lysosomal membrane protein previously implicated as a genetic risk factor for FTLD-TDP. Our surprising discovery of TMEM106B aggregates in patient brains helps us understand the molecular basis of FTLD.

Award Winners

Looking at the funds awarded so far, a pleasing peculiarity can be noted: 19 of the 27 prizes for groundbreaking results in brain research were awarded to female PhD students. The Brain Diseases Award thus not only honors great innovative potential, it also promotes women in science at the same time.

2022 Sydney E. Cason, University of Pennsylvania
Sequential dynein effectors regulate axonal autophagosome motility in a maturation-dependent pathway.

2022 Fadi Jacob, Johns Hopkins
A Patient-Derived Glioblastoma Organoid Model and Biobank Recapitulates Inter- and Intra-tumoral Heterogeneity.

2022 Lyle Kingsbury, UCLA
Correlated Neural Activity and Encoding of Behavior across Brains of Socially Interacting Animals.

2021 Ekaterina Friebel, UZH
Single-Cell Mapping of Human Brain Cancer Reveals Tumor-Specifiv Instruction of Tissue-Invading Leukocytes

2021 Dasha Nelidova, University of Basel
Restoring light sensitivity using tunable near-infrared sensors

2021 David Tingley, NYU Neuroscience Institute
Routing of Hippocampal Ripples to Subcortical Structures via the Lateral Septum

2020 Claire Gizowski, UC San Francisco
Interplay between peripheral signals, behaviour and the central clock

2020 Sofie Ährlund-Richter, Karolinska Institute
On the Neuronal Correlates of Cognition: Cell-type specific Circuitry and Function of the Prefrontal

2020 Xuyu Qian, Harvard University
Modeling Human Brain Development and Disorders Using HiPSC-derived Organoids

2019 Sara Bottes, UZH
Live imaging of neurogenesis in the adult mouse hippocampus.

2018 Gioele La Manno, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm
RNA velocity in single cells.

2017 Tobias Wauer, University of Cambridge
Structure of the human Parkin ligase domain in an autoinhibited state.

2016 Lisa Traunmüller, University of Basel
Control of neuronal synapse specification by a highly dedicated alternative splicing program.

2015 Anne Maass, University of Magdeburg
Vascular hippocampal plasticity after aerobic exercise in older adults.

2014 Katharina Gapp, UZH
Implication of sperm RNAs in transgenerational inheritance of the effects of early trauma in mice.

2014 Marc Aurel Busche, TU München
Clusters of hyperactive neurons near amyloid plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

2012 Amelie Ebke, LMU München
Novel γ-secretase snzyme modulators directly target presenilin protein.

2013 Sandra Giovanoli, ETH Zurich
Stress in puberty unmasks latent neuropathological consequences of prenatal immune activation in mice.

2011 Stéphanie Vuillermot, ETH Zurich
The recombinant amyloid-beta peptide Abeta1-42 aggregates faster and is more neurotoxic than
synthetic Abeta1-42.

2010 Andreas Vitalis, Washington University in St. Louis
Quantitative characterization of intrinsic disorder in polyglutamine: insights from analysis based on
polymer theories.

2010 Verena Finder, ETH Zürich
The recombinant amyloid-beta peptide Abeta1-42 aggregates faster and is more neurotoxic than
synthetic Abeta1-42.

2008 Carsten Sachse, University of Jena
Paired β-sheet structure of an Aβ(1-40) amyloid fibril revealed by electron microscopy

2009 Susanne Schneider, University of Lübeck
Mutations in the THAP1 (DYT6) gene- a cause of generalized dystonia with prominent spasmodic

2008 Anat Frydman-Marom, University of Tel Aviv
Cognitive performance recovery of Alzheimer's disease model mice by modulating early soluble
amyloid assemblies.

2007 Eline Vrieseling, University of Basel
Target-induced transcriptional control of dendritic patterning and connectivity in motor neurons by
the ETS gene Pea3.

2007 Marlen Knobloch, UZH
Intracellular Aβ and cognitive deficits precede β-amyloid depositiobloch UZH'Intracellular Aβ and cognitive deficits precede β-amyloid depositiobloch UZH'Intracellular Aβ and cognitive deficits precede β-amyloid deposition in transgenic arcAβ mice.

2006 Mathias Heikenwälder, UZH
Chronic lymphocytic inflammation specifies the organ tropism of prions.


Tonja Küng
Executive Assistant /
Subsidiary Foundations

+41 44 634 61 91