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Misty Theodore
Gill Center

Last modified: Monday, August 23, 2010

IU's Gill Center honors neuroscientists Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Karl Deisseroth

Aug. 23, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Neuroscientists from biotechnology pioneer Genentech, Inc. and Stanford University will be honored next month at the annual Gill Symposium of the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science at Indiana University Bloomington.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Genentech's executive vice president for research and chief scientific officer, will receive the 2010 Gill Award. Karl Deisseroth, associate professor in the Departments of Bioengineering and Psychiatry at Stanford University, will receive the 2010 Gill Young Investigator Award. These awards recognize exceptional scientists who have emerged as international leaders in cellular, membrane or molecular neuroscience.

Tessier-Lavigne has been a leader in identifying the molecular sign posts that neurons use to guide their axons as the mammalian nervous system is beginning to develop.

"One of his key findings is how navigating neurons are able to choose their appropriate target as the nervous system is 'wired.'" To do that they must lose attractiveness to one target in order to move on to the next target," said Cary Lai, Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "These studies have helped to unravel the mystery of how connections between neurons are formed and have provided insight into how neural circuits arise in the brain."

Since moving from Stanford to Genentech in 2003, Tessier-Lavigne has assumed responsibility for overseeing a broad range of therapeutically oriented programs. His lab's research interests are still related to axonal targeting, but are now directed toward understanding how this process can be manipulated to achieve regeneration in the central nervous system.

Karl Deisseroth

Karl Deisseroth

"This is an area of considerable clinical relevance because in situations of brain or spinal cord injury accompanied by paralysis, the severed axons fail to re-establish their original connections and current treatments are unable to reverse the damage," Lai said.

Deisseroth has developed and promulgated practical tools for activating or inhibiting neurons and ensembles of neurons using flashes of light.

"His studies and the studies of his collaborators have given insight into the basic mechanisms that underlie neurological disorders as diverse as depression, Parkinson's disease, narcolepsy and drug addiction," said Ken Mackie, Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and interim director of the Gill Center. "These techniques also offer promise for therapeutically controlling neurons, in a manner analogous to, but less invasively then current clinical techniques such as deep brain stimulation."

Mackie said this work represents the fusion of three apparently disparate research areas -- neuroscience, bioengineering and phycology.

"The unanticipated usefulness of being able to take light-sensitive channels present in specific algae and use them to control mammalian neurons highlights the value of basic research aimed at understanding the world around us," Mackie said.

The 2010 Gill Symposium will take place on Sept. 8 (Wednesday), in the Indiana Memorial Union at IU Bloomington. For more information about the symposium, please visit:

The Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science was established by a generous gift from Linda and Jack Gill to advance the understanding of complex biological processes and to train next generation of scientists in biomolecular measurements, especially in the field of neuroscience. Members and collaborators include faculty from IU's departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychological and Brain Sciences and the School of Medicine. For more information, visit

For more information about the Gill Symposium, the Gill Center, or to speak with Mackie or Lai, please contact Misty Theodore at 812-856-1930 or To speak with Tessier-Lavigne, please contact Delaney Lynch at To speak with Deisseroth, please contact Cynthia Delacruz at 650-725-6317 and