Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi is the Vice-Chair of Neurology (Research), Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Co-Director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health, and Co-Director of the Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Tanzi co-discovered the first Alzheimer’s disease (AD) gene, the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene, and the two other early-onset familial AD genes, presenilin 1 and presenilin 2. As leader of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Alzheimer’s Genome Project, Dr. Tanzi identified several other AD genes, including CD33, the first AD gene shown to regulate neuroinflammation in AD. He also discovered the Wilson’s disease gene and contributed to the identification of several other neurological disease genes.
Dr. Tanzi’s team was the first to use human stem cells to create three-dimensional mini human brain organoids and 3D neural-glial culture models of AD, dubbed “Alzheimer’s-in-a-Dish”. These models were the first to recapitulate all three key AD pathological hallmarks and have made drug screening exponentially faster and cheaper. He and his team have successfully used these organoids to screen for approved drugs and natural products that can be repurposed to treat AD brain pathology. Combinations of these drugs are now being tested in AD clinical trials. Dr. Tanzi has helped develop several novel therapies for AD including gamma secretase modulators targeting amyloid pathology, for which a phase 1 clinical trial is being prepared. Dr. Tanzi has helped establish numerous biotech companies, including Amylyx, which developed the newly approved ALS drug, Relyvrio. Dr. Tanzi also recently discovered that beta-amyloid plays a functional role in the brain as a host-defense peptide, leading to the “antimicrobial protection hypothesis” of AD.
Dr. Tanzi serves as Chair of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Leadership Group and on numerous scientific advisory and editorial boards, He has published over 650 research papers (>150,000 citations) and is one of the top 50 most cited neuroscientists in the world. He has received the highest awards in his field, including the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award, Potamkin Prize, Ronald Reagan Award, Oneness in Humanity Award, Silver Innovator Award, the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, the Brain Research Foundation Award, and the Kary Mullis Award for Medical Research. He has also been named to TIME magazine’s list of TIME100 Most Influential People in the World. Dr. Tanzi is also a New York Times–bestselling author, who has co-authored the books Decoding Darkness, and bestsellers, Super Brain, Super Genes, and The Healing Self, for which he has hosted several television shows on PBS. In his spare time, he plays studio keyboards for Aerosmith and other musicians.