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Clemens Scherzer, MD

Director of the Stephen & Denise Adams Center for Parkinson’s Disease Research

Contact Information

Clemens Scherzer, MD

Office Location

Mailing Address

  • Yale School of Medicine

    100 College Street

    New Haven, CT 06510

    United States

Biography

Clemens Scherzer, M.D. is a physician-scientist and the Stephen & Denise Adams Professor of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine. He heads the Stephen & Denise Adams Center for Parkinson’s Disease Research of Yale School of Medicine, an inter-departmental incubator of precision medicine. In his clinical practice he serves as Academic Chief of the Division of Movement Disorders and directs the Yale Harvard Biomarkers Study (YHBS), with 3,000 participants one of the largest longitudinal biobanks for Parkinson's in the world.

Scherzer is a pioneer in precision neurology using massive data streams from genomes, transcriptomes, and longitudinal cohorts to predict and prevent progression of Parkinson’s disease. His research has led to the discovery of genetic drivers (e.g. types of GBA mutations in 10% of patients; Annals of Neurology, 2016; Lancet Neurology, 2017), biomarkers, and therapeutic mechanisms (e.g. beta2-adrenoreceptor; Science, 2017), and is inspiring clinical trials. His laboratory is creating a patient-centered discovery platform designed to identify precision targets, drugs, and biomarkers in patients and for patients --- the Parkinson DiscoveryEngine. This revealed that the genetics of disease progression --- the main driver of patients’ wellbeing and clinical trials --- and the genetics of susceptibility importantly differ (Nature Genetics, 2021). His landmark systems transcriptomics study on defects in PGC1alpha-regulated bioenergetics genes in prodromal Parkinson's neuropathology (Science Translational Medicine, 2010) was highlighted as “a glimpse into the future of biomedicine”. To decode how the human genome codes our brain cells in health and disease, Scherzer is mapping a $10 million Parkinson Cell Atlas in 5D (PD5D) using high-resolution spatial, multiome, sub-cellular, and single-cell genomics combined with single-cell expression Quantitative Trait Locus analysis in millions of brain cells and thousand brains. While virtually everything we know about the brain is based on just the 1.2% of the human genome that encodes proteins, his group found that actually as much as 64% of the genome are actively transcribed in our brain cells. Clemens believes that this massive, hidden RNA software underlies the complexity of the human brain and neuropsychiatric disease (e.g. Nature Neuroscience, 2018; Nature Communications, 2023). For Alzheimer’s disease, he made the seminal discovery of SORL1 (LR11, SORLA) gene activity changes (Archives of Neurology, 2004), which is widely recognized as a top Alzheimer’s gene and “Amyloid-beta traffic cop.”

Scherzer is a graduate of the University of Vienna Medical School, completed his neurology residency at Emory University, and genomics & movement disorders specialty training at Harvard, where he founded the BWH Precision Neurology Program and was Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. He helped launch the three major biobanks for PD in the US, the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s PPMI (on the founding SC), and the NIH’s PDBP (as Co-Chair), in addition to YHBS, thereby building the infrastructure enabling precision medicine research. Scherzer is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Parkinson Disease Foundation and was nominated to the Vision Setting Panel of the U.S. Department of Defense Parkinson Program, and co-chaired the Technical Working Group for the Accelerating Medicines Partnership-PD, the flagship private-public partnership of the Foundation for the NIH and industry. His work was recognized by Dr. Paul Beeson, and George C. Cotzias Memorial Awards, and widely featured in Science, Scientific American, Washington Post, Boston Globe, US News & World Reports, and NOVA Next.

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