Paola Arlotta receives 2023 Gutenberg Research Award

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz to bestow its most prestigious research prize on Harvard stem cell biologist

3 April 2023

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) will be honoring biologist Professor Paola Arlotta of Harvard University by presenting her with the 2023 Gutenberg Research Award, the most eminent research prize awarded by the university. The award is associated with a reward of EUR 10,000 and is conferred annually by the Gutenberg Research College (GRC), JGU's central institution for the promotion of top-level research. Paola Arlotta is Chair of the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. She will receive the prize on May 15th, 2023, at this year's GRC annual award ceremony. During her visit she will continue and deepen the dialogue with her Mainz colleagues on research in the field of brain development and talk about her groundbreaking work to the members of the Focus Program Translational Neurosciences (FTN) at JGU.

"Paola Arlotta is among the world's leading researchers whose work is of relevance across multiple disciplines. By presenting her with the 2023 Gutenberg Research Award, we are paying tribute to her pioneering discoveries regarding brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders as well as her innovative approaches towards brain repair," said Professor Siegfried Waldvogel, Director of the GRC. "In addition, we are recognizing her commitment to the promotion of early-career researchers, particularly women and underrepresented minorities."

Groundbreaking insights into the development of the human cerebral cortex

Paola Arlotta grew up in Capriva del Friuli in Northeast Italy and studied biochemistry at the University of Trieste. She was awarded a Ph.D. in molecular biology by the University of Portsmouth in the UK in 2000, from where she relocated to Harvard University. "There she has accomplished truly remarkable achievements in her research into the development of the cerebral cortex," emphasized Professor Susann Schweiger, Director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University Medical Center Mainz. Schweiger and her colleague Professor Benedikt Berninger of the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at the University Medical Center Mainz had nominated Arlotta for the award. "Among other things, Arlotta has succeeded in refuting the long-held view that neuronal identity remains irrevocably fixed in the brain and has thus helped opening up a completely new field of research," said Schweiger. Through her visionary work she has continued making paradigm shifts in the field of the neurosciences. In the recent past, Arlotta was able to generate organoids of the cerebral cortex from human stem cells. This has formed the basis for modelling the development of the human cerebral cortex and has resulted in the discovery of core mechanisms underlying developmental disorders of the nervous system.

"Beyond her research, Paola Arlotta continues to be a role model for and promoter of early career researchers," added Schweiger. "She is also co-leader of a program designed to support female researchers and is widely commended for the fact that she has substantially increased the proportion of women and members of minority groups at her department." Arlotta has already received various research prizes, including the Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Award of the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It was this latter award that enabled a previous stay at the University Medical Center Mainz back in 2017.