March 05, 2014

Silvia Arber to receive the Otto Naegeli Prize 2014

Professor Silvia Arber, a neurobiologist at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research and the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, is to receive the Otto Naegeli Prize for Medical Research. This prize is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in Switzerland. Arber is being honored for her investigations of the establishment and function of neuronal circuits. The award ceremony will be held on May 28 at the University of Basel.

Silvia Arber, currently one of Switzerland’s most eminent biologists, is both Senior group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) and Professor of Neurobiology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. From the outset of her research career, she has sought to answer fundamental questions about how neuronal circuits are established and function.

After studying biology at the Biozentrum, Arber carried out her PhD thesis in the laboratory of Professor Pico Caroni at the FMI. She already gained recognition for her work at this stage, receiving two awards for her doctoral thesis. With a long-term fellowship awarded by the Human Frontier Science Program, Arber subsequently joined Professor Thomas Jessell’s laboratory at Columbia University in New York to investigate mechanisms of neuronal maturation in the spinal cord. In 2000, she was appointed to the University of Basel, where she leads a research team at the Biozentrum and the FMI. During her career, she has received numerous major awards, including the Pfizer Research Prize (1998), the National Latsis Prize (2003) the Schellenberg Prize (2005) and the Friedrich Miescher Award (2008). In 2010, she secured one of the much sought-after European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grants.

Arber is interested in neuronal circuits controlling motor behavior. In recent years, her research has led to the important discovery that the motor system comprises functional modules at various levels, ensuring the precise interplay of neurons and muscles. This year, her team’s findings on how neuronal circuits coordinate precise movements of the arm and hand were published in the leading journals Cell and Nature. The neurobiologists showed that commands in the spinal cord are directed simultaneously towards muscles and the brain. This ensures constant monitoring of the stream of commands, contributing to accurate execution of motor tasks. They also demonstrated that motor control is regulated by a sophisticated connectivity matrix between the brainstem and spinal cord, and that grasping is controlled by a specialized region in the brainstem. Arber’s work has made significant contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms and organizational principles underlying the establishment and function of motor circuits.

Silvia Arber is the second FMI scientist to be honored with the Otto Naegeli Prize – Professor Susan M. Gasser received the award in 2006. This highly regarded prize, worth CHF 200,000, is awarded every other year to honor outstanding scientists in the field of medical and biomedical research. It was established by the Otto Naegeli Foundation in 1960 – in memory of the internationally renowned physician and research scientist – with the aim of stimulating medical research in Switzerland.

The award ceremony will take place on May 28, 2014, in the “Alte Aula” of the University of Basel, located in the Natural History Museum.

About this site2018 © FMI Basel Switzerland