King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) recognizes excellence in 5 categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language & Literature, Medicine, and Science, since 1979

Professor Colin L. Masters

Winner of the  
KFP Prize for  
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Topic: Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System


Nationality: Australia


Colin Masters was born in Perth, Australia, in 1947. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences (physiology – First Class Honors) in 1967, M.B. B.S. and M.D. in medical neuropathology from the University of Australia in 1970 and 1977, respectively. After graduation from medical school, he served at the Royal Perth Hospital then as a research fellow in the Department of Pathology at the University of West Australia and Resident at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. He spent our years as a research fellow at the Department of Neuropathology in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. and as a visiting scientist at the NIH Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies in Bethesda, MD. Between 1980-1981, he was Guest Professor and Humboldt Fellow in Neurobiology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and for the next 7 years, he was a research fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. Department of Pathology, University of Western Australia. Between 1989-2006, he was Professor and Head of Pathology at the University of Melbourne and between 1999-2005, he served as Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is currently Laureate Professor of Pathology at the University of Melbourne, Executive Director of the Mental Health and Research Institute of Victoria, Consultant Pathologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Melbourne Health, Chief Scientific Advisor, Neurosciences, Australia and Co-Director, Australian National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Case Registry. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Britain, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia, Australian Academy of Science and Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. In 2010, he was elected member of the Academy of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. He is also a co-founding scientist of Prana Biotechnology Limited which is currently testing new drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Professor Masters is widely regarded as the most eminent neuroscientist in Australia and one of the world’s foremost experts on neurodegenerative disorders. His interest in neurological diseases dates back to the 1960’s when he was still a medical student. For the next 30 years, he dedicated his research to the study of the nature and pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases (such as Cruetzfeldt Jakob disease, Kuru and Gertsmann-Straussler- Sheinker Syndrome). In collaboration with Konrad Beyreuther of Heidleberg University, he studied the nature, structure, function and metabolism of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. Masters current research focuses on identifying pathways through which environmental and genetic factors can operate to cause this disease.

In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, Professor Masters received numerous other awards including the Mayne Florey Medal, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Alzheimer’s Disease Research; the Victoria Prize, the Lennox K. Black International Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research; the Max Planck Prize for Research; the International Union for
Gerontology Prize; the Potamkin Prize and the Grand Hamdan International Award.

These investigators have identified a protein known as 13A4 that is a major component of the amyloid plaques and have shown that a gene on chromosome 21 encodes for this protein which is part of a lamer protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP). They later studied the regulation of the synthesis and function of APP and its ability to bind to metallic ions. They hypothesised that the abnormal accumulation of pA4 protein underlies the neuronal changes that lead not only to Alzheimer’s disease but also to other degenerative diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Their research has opened the way to the rational development of novel drugs that can interfere with these pathological processes and which it is hoped will offer some chance of limiting or ameliorating these devastating diseases in the near future. Professors Masters and Beyreuther have published 124 joint papers relating to this field as well as numerous other individual papers.
A rarer but equally distressing condition is Huntington’s disease which, developing in early adulthood, results in totally disabling motor disorders functional and psychiatric changes.

More about Awarding this Winner

Colin Masters on Seeking the Natural History of Alzheimer's Disease Science Watch May 2011
Laureate Professor Colin L Masters on Alzheimer's Disease
Professor Colin Masters - Biomarkers inform therapeutic strategies
Mental Health
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