THE 2017 MERCK RESEARCH MEDAL: LARS ITTNER
Department of Anatomy
University of New South Wales
Professor Lars Ittner is a group leader in the Department of Anatomy of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Senior Principal Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) in Sydney. He is a neuroscientist and heads the research laboratories of the Dementia Research Unit and the Transgenic Animal Unit of the Mark Wainright Analytical Centre at UNSW.
Lars received his medical degree from the University of Ulm in Germany in 2001, followed by an experimental thesis in medical research at the University of Zurich in Switzerland in 2002. Lars was then selected into the Postgraduate Course for Experimental Biology and Medicine at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, from where he continued as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Jan A. Fischer, working on G-protein-coupled receptors and neuronal development.
In 2005, Lars moved to Australia to work as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Jürgen Götz at the University of Sydney. With this move, Lars changed his research focus from early neuronal development to neurodegenerative diseases, which continues to be the major interest of his research program. During his time at the University of Sydney, he made fundamental discoveries about the synaptic functions of one of the hallmark proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, the tau protein. Furthermore, he developed a range of novel transgenic mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases that continue to be used for understanding pathomechanisms and testing of novel treatments. Lars became a Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Lars moved to UNSW in 2013, where he was appointed as Professor in the School of Medical Sciences to head the Dementia Research Unit. His current work aims to understand the earliest changes at the synapse of neurons during the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, Lars works together with industry partners to translate his findings into therapeutic avenues of the future. Lars is also part of a large chief investigator team, dedicated to understanding and treating rarer forms of dementia and motor neuron disease.
Lars has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in journals, including Science, Cell, Nature Medicine, Cell Stem Cell, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Acta Neuropathologica and PNAS. He has held prestigious fellowships throughout his career, including a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, and he has been awarded multiple Project and Program Grants from both the NHMRC and ARC as chief investigator. Amongst several awards he has received for his research, he has also been awarded the Merck Young Achiever Award from the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) in 2010.