Science & Technology Society & Culture

Neurodegenerative disease expert to deliver Ritter Lecture at UGA

Athens, Ga. – A leading expert on misfolded proteins that play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will share her insights at the annual Ritter Lecture on March 27 at 4 p.m. in room 404B of the biological sciences building at the University of Georgia.

Virginia M.-Y. Lee, the John H. Ware III Professor in Alzheimer’s Research at the University of Pennsylvania, will give a talk titled “Transmission of Neurodegenerative Disease: A Common Mechanism of Pathogenesis,” which is free and open to the public.

Lee’s work has demonstrated that several proteins, including tau, form brain aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases. She has provided critical evidence that these aggregates are a common theme in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and related disorders. Her work has shown that pathways leading to the formation of protein deposits compromise the function of the brain’s neurons and has also opened new avenues of research to identify targets for drugs to treat these devastating disorders.

“Dr. Lee’s research has been truly transformative,” said Marcus Fechheimer, Josiah Meigs Professor of Cellular Biology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “We anticipate that her lecture will provide an overview of these devastating diseases, and then progress to more recent discoveries regarding mechanisms of pathogenesis and disease progression and prospects for development of new diagnostics and therapies.”

Lee is the author of more than 450 research papers, including more than 300 on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative disorders. Her research has been recognized by a number of awards, including the Alzheimer’s Association Khalid Iqbal Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Unrestricted Biomedical Research Grant in Neuroscience Research, the Rita Hayworth Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the Founders Distinguished Scholars Award from the American Association of University Women. In 2004, Lee became a member of the National Institutes of Health’s National Advisory Council on Aging. In 2005, she became a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.

Lee studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, obtained a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of London and received her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at San Francisco. While a Penn faculty member, she enrolled in the executive MBA program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and earned her master’s degree in business administration.

The Ritter lecture series was established in 1999 in honor of Hope T.M. Ritter Jr., a professor emeritus of cellular biology. The series is supported by a fund created with contributions from family and friends on the occasion of Ritter’s 80th birthday and more recently in celebration of his life and accomplishments.