The Rainwater Charitable Foundation (RCF) awards Virginia Man-Yee Lee, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, with the 2024 Rainwater Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Neurodegenerative Disease Research of $400,000.

The Rainwater Prize Program, established by RCF in 2018, aims to honor scientific advancements in primary tauopathies and motivate researchers in the field of neurodegenerative disease research. By recognizing and rewarding exemplary researchers like Dr. Lee, the program seeks to highlight significant accomplishments that drive us closer to treatments and a cure for primary tauopathies, like progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Dr. Lee’s impressive career and accomplishments span multiple decades and are marked by numerous seminal discoveries that have reshaped our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. She is the John H. Ware 3rd Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn, Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, and Co-Director of the Marian S. Ware Center for Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Program. Dr. Lee’s research encompasses tauopathies, the intricate interplay between misfolded proteins, and neuronal health in various neurodegenerative disorders. She was among the first to identify the involvement of tau, along with other key proteins, in conditions such as FTD and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Her work, including the first purification of tau filaments from human brains and the identification of phosphorylated tau protein, laid the groundwork for subsequent research in the field. Dr. Lee’s innovative research has shed light on the intricate roles played by tau in these debilitating conditions, paving the way for novel therapeutic approaches and potential breakthroughs in treatment.

Dr. Lee’s contributions stretch beyond science and the lab as she is a mentor and supporter to emerging and aspiring researchers. Through her leadership, she has fostered a global network of scientists dedicated to unraveling the complexities of neurodegenerative diseases. Her commitment to mentorship and collaboration has not only propelled scientific discovery but has also inspired the next generation of researchers to push the boundaries in the neurovegetative and tauopathy field.

Additionally, Dr. Lee’s pioneering efforts have not only deepened our understanding of tauopathies but have also paved the way for transformative advances in diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, the quest for a cure. “I’m deeply honored to be recognized in this way and am grateful to use this research funding to further advance neurodegenerative research,” remarked Dr. Lee upon receiving the prestigious award. Indeed, her commitment to advancing scientific understanding is not slowing down, as she continues to lead her team in pioneering investigations into rare neurodegenerative diseases such as PSP, where treatments remain elusive.

Jeremy Smith, President of RCF, remarked, “The Outstanding Innovation in Neurodegenerative Disease Research Prize being awarded to the world-renowned Dr. Lee highlights her impressive, long-standing dedication to the biology of tau and a focus in researching neurodegenerative disorders.” Moreover, Dr. Lee’s work contributes to preserving Richard E. Rainwater’s legacy of advancing the understanding of tauopathies.

Dr. Virginia Man-Yee Lee and her work is a pillar of excellence in the field of neurodegenerative research. Her unwavering dedication, collaborative spirit, and pioneering discoveries have left an indelible mark on the scientific community and RCF is proud to honor her as the 2024 Rainwater Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Neurodegenerative Disease Research.

For more information on Dr. Lee’s groundbreaking research and the Rainwater Prize Program, please visit The Rainwater Charitable Foundation’s website.