German Academy of Medical Science Leopoldina:
In Celebration of the 80th birthday of Moussa Youdim
Halle (Saale), 28 February 2020
Prof. Dr. Moussa B. H. Youdim, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology,
Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences,
1 Efron St., P.O. Box 9697, 31096 Haifa, Israel
Dear Prof. Youdim,
On behalf of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, we congratulate you on your 80th birthday on February 28th, 2020. We wish you all the best for the coming years and decades.
You are one of the pioneers of monoamine oxidase (MAO) research, which spans the neurochemistry of these enzymes to neuropharmacological aspects and the translation of this knowledge to drug products. By deciphering the fundamental roles of MAO A and B and, in particular, the metabolism of dopamine, you have contributed extensively to the oxidative stress hypothesis as well as to our understanding of iron-induced toxicity of nerve cells in neurodegenerative disorders, especially Parkinson’s disease (PD). These studies led to the development of the anti-Parkinson drugs selegiline and rasagiline as well as the multi-modal anti-Alzheimer drug ladostigil, which is being tested in clinical trials now. Other developments include preclinical studies on iron chelators which cross the blood-brain barrier and are inhibitors of MAO and cholinesterase.
You are one of the few scientists who employs the entire spectrum of armamentarium to study biochemistry, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology, molecular biology, transcriptomics, proteomic profiling and behavioural aspects. As such, you and your team have made major contributions and developments to the management of neurodegenerative disorders. While a major focus of your scientific work has been on developing drugs based on findings from human post mortem brain studies and experimental studies of animal models for PD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), more recent interests have been devoted to discovering biomarkers for both the early detection of PD as well as the markers of disease progression. This is vitally important as such biomarkers would enable PD to be treated even before major symptomology appears and at a time when neurons could be protected from the degenerative process. At the same time, biomarkers that characterize the progression of PD would help clinicians optimize drug treatment and obtain information about the future prognosis and treatment potentials of PD patients.
Most certainly your professional success is down to your “internationality” which began in 1952 when you left Teheran (Iran) and went to England to boarding school. From 1957 to 1959 you studied at the Borough Polytechnic, London, and graduated with GCE A levels in botany, chemistry, physics and zoology. You studied at McGill University in Montreal (Canada) from 1959 to 1966 and obtained a Bsc, Msc and PhD in biochemistry. There, under the mentorship of Theodore Sourkes, you began working on isolating and characterizing MAO, and produced the first evidences for MAO iso-enzymes.
You returned to Europe, spending time in London (1966–1972) as a Senior Research Associate at the University of London and as a post doc fellow at the Bernhard Baron Memorial Labs in London (Head: Merton Sandler, mentor and friend to you and to one of us, Peter Riederer, for the next decades); in Paris (France, 1972–1973) as a Wellcome Fellow at the Unit de la Neuropharmacologie et Biochemique, College de France; in Oxford (1973–1977) at the MRC Clinical Pharmacology, Radcliffe Infirmary; and in Haifa (1977 to present) as a professor of pharmacology at TECHNION, Haifa (Israel). Visiting professorships at the University of Florence (Italy), at the Polytechnic University and Hong Kong University (China) and Yonsei University in Seoul (South Korea) are a testament to your international reputation and scientific standing. This is also expressed through the more than nine hundred scientific publications and an h-index score of 104.
The scientific community acknowledges your excellent ongoing contributions towards translating research at the bench into treatment strategies for neurodegenerative diseases. You have gone above and beyond to demonstrate your ability to innovate and enlarge the armamentarium in the fight against such devastating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The list of administrative posts, committee appointments, memberships to scientific and professional associations, editorial board activities for international journals, graduate students and post doc fellows is long and represents your vivacity, your inspirational activities and your ability to teach students and up-and-coming scientists.
Since 1969, you have received numerous prizes, awards and honours. To name just a few: the Anna Monika International Prize for the Neurochemistry of Depression (Switzerland, 1972), honorary membership to the Austrian Neurological Society (1986), the Claudius Galenius Gold Medal Prize for Parkinson’s Disease, l-Deprenyl Drug of the Year (Berlin, Germany, 1991), the AGNP Prize (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Neuropsychopharmakologie und Pharmakopsychiatrie, Nuremberg, Germany, 1991), honorary membership to The International College of Neuropharmacology (CINP, 1994), Doctor honoris causa, Semmelweis University Budapest (Hungary, 1997), the World Federation of Neurology Award (Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2007), Distinguished Honorary Professor at Hong Kong University as well as at the University of Qingdao (China, 2008) and at Yonsei University in Seoul (South Korea, 2008). Furthermore, you received the EMET Prize, the ECNP Life Time Achievement Prize (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology), the CINP Pioneer Prize and the Arvid Carlson Medal in Neuropsychopharmacology.
Your innovations in drug development are documented in numerous patents worldwide such as for the anti-Parkinson and anti-Alzheimer drugs rasagiline (TVP 1022), capillary endothelial factor VIII clotting factor, and neuroprotective/neurorescue agents (TVP 136, TVP 137), the anti-cholinesterase inhibitors ladostigil and TVP 3279 for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and the iron chelators VK-28 and M-30.
Your international reputation is underscored by your many key and plenary lectures, as well as your ability to organize congresses, symposia and scientific meetings of excellence. One outstanding event was the co-organization of the first Interacademic Symposium (IAS) between the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem in 2008. Since then, this symposium has been organized every other year, with the 7th IAS taking place once again in Jerusalem in 2020.
The German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina bestowed you with a membership in 2010 to acknowledge your excellence in translational science.
Prof. Youdim, we, your colleagues and friends from around the world, wish you all the best for the coming years. We will continue to value your creativity, open-minded personal interactions, charm and humour.
With kind regards,
Jörg Hacker Peter Riederer (Würzburg)
November 5, 2020