posted October 23, 2012

Lectures to Focus on Search for Cures for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Dr. Gregory A. Petsko, a biochemist whose research focuses on protein structure and function, and the development of methods to treat age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, will present two addresses at Hope College on Thursday-Friday, Oct.  25-26, while on campus through the annual James and Jeanette Neckers Lectureship in Chemistry.

He will deliver the address “The Coming Epidemic of Neurologic Diseases and What Is—and Should Be—Done About It” on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m.  He will present the Neckers Lecture, “Structure and Processing of a-Synuclein: A New Approach to the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease,” on Friday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m. Both addresses will be in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited to both events.  Admission is free.

Petsko is a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, the Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry Emeritus with Brandeis University, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  His research, carried out jointly with his long-time scientific partner Professor Dagmar Ringe, currently focuses on finding cures for neurodegenerative diseases, and exploring the connections between such diseases and cancer.

Petsko was a professor of chemistry at MIT from 1978 to 1990, when he moved to Brandeis University, where from 1994 to 2008 he directed the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center and from 1996 to 2012 was the Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry.  He joined the faculty of Weill Cornell Medical College in February.

His awards include the Sidhu Award of the American Crystallographic Association, the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and the Max Planck Prize, which he shared with Professor Roger Goody of Heidelberg for their work on the origins of some human cancers.  He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, the same year he also received a Guggenheim Fellowship.  In 2001 he received the Lynen Medal and was elected to the Institute of Medicine.  In 2002, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society and was also named a foreign member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

He is a past-president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and president-elect of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The James and Jeanette Neckers Lectureship and Student Assistance Fund through which Petsko is speaking was established in 1984 by Dr. James W. and Jeanette Hoffman Neckers, members of the college’s Class of 1923, to support annual lectureships in chemistry. Through additional gifts from Dr. Neckers, the fund was expanded to include student summer research stipends and student scholarships.

James Neckers was chairman of the Department of Chemistry at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for 37 of his 40 years at the university. Under his leadership, the department grew from a three-year offering in chemistry to granting the doctorate; the faculty grew from three to 23. Jeanette Neckers died on June 10, 1992, and James Neckers died on May 8, 2004.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., facing College Avenue between 10th and 12th streets.