GASND Research & Education Lifetime Achievement Award

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Distinguished Research Professor Joan Valentine receives the Research & Education Lifetime Achievement Award from the Global Association for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases (GASND) in recognition of excellence in research and mentoring in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards were established to honor senior mentors in the neurodegeneration field for their contributions both as great mentors and as renowned scientists, advancing our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.

Valentine was honored at the 3rd International Research Conference on Neurodegenerative Diseases (IRCND 2023) in October 2023.

A biological inorganic chemist and biochemist, Valentine is a renowned figure in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. Her current work examines the role of transition metals, metalloenzymes, and oxidative stress in health. Her foremost expertise is superoxide anion and its functional enzyme superoxide dismutase.  

Valentine’s neurodegenerative disease work includes extensive research on the protein copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD), particularly its role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Her research team, collaborating with scientists from the University of Florence, hypothesized that ALS patients lack copper and zinc in the SOD protein, leading to its toxicity. They found that the metal-free form of the protein misfolds, potentially contributing to ALS. This discovery opens avenues for understanding ALS and developing treatments. Valentine’s longstanding research on SOD spans from studying its inorganic properties to investigating its biological implications, culminating in a pivotal contribution to understanding ALS pathology.

Valentine is a trailblazer not only in her research but also in her career. When she received her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Princeton University in 1971, she became the first female Ph.D. recipient from the Department of Chemistry there.  In 1972, she moved to Rutgers University where she served as Assistant, Associate and Professor of Chemistry. In 1980, she moved to UCLA as Professor of Chemistry& Biochemistry, becoming one of the first female faculty members in the department. Valentine was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,