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Stephen G. Waxman, MD, PhD, Earns Prestigious Julius Axelrod Prize

November 03, 2018

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has announced that Stephen G. Waxman, MD, PhD, Bridget M. Flaherty Professor of Neurology and professor of neurobiology and of pharmacology, is this year's recipient of its Julius Axelrod Prize. The $25,000 prize, supported by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, recognizes exceptional achievements in neuropharmacology or a related field, and exemplary efforts in mentoring young scientists. It is being presented during Neuroscience 2018, SfN’s annual meeting and the world's largest conference for scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system.

Waxman’s research has defined the ion channel architecture of nerve fibers, and demonstrated its importance for axonal conduction. He demonstrated increased expression of sodium channels in demyelinated axons, identified the channel isoforms responsible for this remarkable neuronal plasticity that supports remission in multiple sclerosis, and delineated the roles of sodium channels in axonal degeneration. He has made pivotal discoveries that explain pain after nerve injury.

In translational leaps from laboratory to humans, Waxman carried out molecule-to-man studies combining molecular genetics, molecular biology, and biophysics to demonstrate the contribution of ion channels to human pain. He participated in an international coalition that identified sodium channel mutations as causes of peripheral neuropathy. He has used atomic-level modeling to advance pharmacogenomics, first in the laboratory, and then in the clinic in a paper that was accompanied by an editorial stating “there are still relatively few examples in medicine where molecular reasoning has been rewarded with a comparable degree of success.” An entirely new class of medications for neuropathic pain, based largely on his work, is now in Phase II clinical trials.

Waxman has trained more than 200 academic neurologists and neuroscientists who lead research teams around the world. He chaired the Department of Neurology from 1986 until 2009, and became founding director of the Center for Neuroscience & Regeneration Research in 1988. Prior to arriving at Yale, he worked at Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. He is visiting professor at University College London.

Julius Axelrod was a longtime member of SfN and shared the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the actions of neurotransmitters in regulating the metabolism of the nervous system. His well-known work on brain chemistry led to current treatments for depression and anxiety disorders and played a key role in the discovery of the pain-relieving properties of acetaminophen.

Submitted by Robert Forman on November 01, 2018