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Professor Goadsby awarded top Brain Prize in recognition of pioneering migraine research

Published: 08 March 2021

An NIHR National Specialty Lead, Professor Peter Goadsby, is one of a group of four neuroscientists to receive this year’s The Brain Prize - one of the world’s most prestigious awards in neuroscience.

Prof Goadsby is NIHR Clinical Research Network National Specialty Lead for Neurological Disorders, and also Director of the NIHR King’s Clinical Research Facility.

The award is in recognition of the four neuroscientists collective work over a period of 40 years involving the discovery of a key mechanism that causes migraine that led to revolutionary new treatments.

Treatments for migraine have been available for some time, but they can have significant side effects and can only help to relieve the symptoms, not prevent migraine. There was, therefore, an urgent need to develop new classes of migraine-specific drugs. Understanding a fundamental biological mechanism that triggers a migraine has led to the development of entirely new and effective classes of migraine treatments that received FDA approval in the United States in 2018.

Pioneers in migraine research

The four winners are all internationally renowned neuroscientists, Peter Goadsby (UK/USA), Lars Edvinsson (Sweden), Michael Moskowitz (USA), and Jes Olesen (Denmark).

Professor Goadbsy built on the initial work of Michael Moskowitz in 1979 - who showed that a migraine attack is triggered when trigeminal nerve fibres release neuropeptides that lead to dilated blood vessels of the meninges. Following the early discoveries of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), Prof Lars Edvinsson and Prof Peter Goadsby teamed up with a series of basic ground-breaking studies. They were able to show that the recently discovered neuropeptide, CGRP, was released from the trigeminal nerve during a migraine attack and that it was a particularly potent dilator of blood vessels in the meninges. Based on these findings Edvinsson and Goadsby proposed that CGRP may be of crucial importance in migraine and the key molecule in primary headache disorders.

Professors Goadsby and Edvinsson have since worked extensively together on migraine and cluster headache. In the last decade, the idea of blocking the CGRP pathway took another direction leading directly to the development of new drugs called monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) for the prevention of migraine attacks.

Professor Peter Goadsby said: “It is an enormous privilege to receive the Brain Prize; really a prize for all the people who have suffered for so long with headache disorders, and for all the excellent scientists who have made an important contribution to this field. It is an overdue recognition of the ‘Cinderella’ problem of migraine. Cinderella has arrived at the ball as a welcome guest - and got the glass slipper! I feel privileged to work in medicine with patients’ headache disorders, and their families, to make some small differences and help the incredibly brave patients I see do just a little better.”

Professor Peter Goadsby is one of the world's leading neurologists in the field of headache and migraine and was appointed Director of the NIHR King’s Clinical Research Facility in 2013.

The Brain Prize is awarded annually by the Lundbeck Foundation. It will be awarded at a ceremony in October 2021, presided over by His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Denmark.

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