Paul Greengard: Still Doing What He Loves at 90

Greengard, PaulDana Alliance member Paul Greengard, Ph.D., whose over 45 year commitment to understanding neurological diseases and disorders led him to win a Nobel Prize, was recently featured in an interview with Scientific American. The interview covered Greengard’s lengthy career, from his beginnings at Geigy pharmaceutical company to his current research at the Greengard Laboratory at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Greengard’s main areas of research are neurotransmitters and slow-signaling transduction, the pathways and messages of the brain. While not widely accepted when Greengard began his studies, they are now crucial to our understanding of the brain and are targeted in the development of more effective drugs for neurological diseases and disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and depression, all of which Greengard has spent his life studying.

His commitment to understanding  these pathways led him to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 with Arvid Carlsson and Dana Alliance Executive Committee member Eric R. Kandel, “for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system.” On winning the prize, Greengard said:

It seems that there are people who convert their Nobel Prize into being a president of a university or a head of a foundation and there are others who work harder at their science… I happen to be in the latter group. I just love doing my work so much I have no interest in running an institute.

Despite having celebrated his 90th birthday this month, Greengard has been working as hard as ever doing what he loves. His laboratory identified a protein, p11, that may be an indicator of depression and could lead to a new class of antidepressants; he co-authored a paper on proteins that regulate genes in cells that both lived and died, which may aid in the creation of a drug that would intervene in cell death in Parkinson’s; and his company, Intra-Cellular Therapies, is working on a very promising anti-schizophrenia drug that is currently in a late-stage clinical trial.

Greengard shows no signs of stopping soon. Asked why he continues to work, Greengard replied:

I don’t want to lay off. I get great joy out of my work. I have a wonderful group of younger colleagues and there are always extremely exciting things happening in the lab, which totally get to me… It’s much more fun understanding the brain than doing a crossword puzzle. It’s the same kind of cognitive challenge, but it’s much more fun and you feel you’re doing something worthwhile.

– Ali Chunovic

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