AFTD Medical Advisor Virginia M.-Y. Lee Wins Breakthrough Prize



Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, a founding member of AFTD’s Medical Advisory Council, was awarded a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences on September 5.

Dr. Lee is the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. Her work led to the discovery, in the mid-2000s, of the link between accumulations of the protein TDP-43 in the brain to the development of both FTD and ALS.

The Breakthrough Prize, funded by a cadre of high-profile technology figures including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sergey Brin, comes with a $3 million award that Dr. Lee can use for any purpose.

“This funding will help us as we continue to push for a greater understanding of these diseases that can ultimately help us find ways to help millions of these patients,” Dr. Lee told the University of Pennsylvania Almanac.

Other Breakthrough Prizes were given out for achievements in physics and mathematics. They will be formally awarded at an event on November 3 in Mountain View, California.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Lee said that she thinks that a breakthrough in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as FTD could be on the horizon.

“We just have to work hard at this,” she said. “Hopefully at some point in the near future, maybe in five or ten years, someone will have something that provides hope for people.”