Neuropathologist Adriano Aguzzi of University Hospital of Zurich has received this year's international Robert Koch Award for his research into prion diseases.

The Italian-born researcher received the award, which carries a cash prize of €65,000, during a ceremony in the Reichstag in Berlin. It is given by the Robert Koch Foundation for highly innovative work in infectious diseases that has potential for practical therapeutic applications.

The Koch Foundation's scientific advisory board said it was honoring Aguzzi in recognition of his pioneering discoveries in the field of transmissable spongiform encephalopathies, degenerative brain disorders caused by malformed prion proteins. Well known forms include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”) and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Aguzzi, who has researched prion conditions since 1992, described how prions enter the brain and central nervous system, the foundation said. This contributed to the fundamental understanding of the origin of the diseases as well...

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