Professor Konrad Beyreuther was born in Leutersdorf, Germany, in 1941 and graduated with B.Sc. from Ludwigs- Maximilian University of Munich and Ph.D. in Protein Chemistry from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich. He completed post-doctoral training in protein chemistry, molecular biology and genetics at the Institute for Genetics in Cologne University (Germany), the Biological Laboratories at Harvard University (USA) and the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology at Cambridge University (U.K.). He obtained his Habilitation in Genetics from Cologne University and became Professor in the Department of Biochemical Genetics at the Institute of Genetics at Cologne, before moving, in 1987, to the University of Heidelberg as a Professor of Molecular Biology and Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuropathology. He became – since 2006 – the Director of Netzwork Alternsforschung (NAR) in Heidelberg, which was established under his leadership. Professor Beyreuther also held several senior posts in both the private and public sectors in his country. Following his retirement, he was named Senior Professor at Heidelberg University in recognition of his outstanding achievements.
Professor Beyreuther, jointly with Colin Masters, made significant advances in the molecular biology and chemistry of amyloid plaques that characterize the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). They determined the amino acid sequence of a major protein constituent of amyloid plaques and established model systems for in vitro and in vivo studies of amyloid formation in AD. These studies opened new avenues of research into the molecular biology, genetics and pathogenesis of AD that could lead to the development of novel ways to prevent its occurrence or slow down its progression. He also conducted detailed studies of synaptic dysfunction in AD. Earlier in his career, he succeeded, in collaboration with British scientists, in identifying the scrapie-associated protein in the brains of experimentally infected animals.
Professor Beyreuther published numerous scientific papers in international journals. His outstanding contributions to the study of neurodegenerative disorders, particularly AD earned him numerous awards and honors. In addition to the King Faisal International Prize, he received the Gunther Buch Award for Research on Aging, Robert Pfleger Award for Medical Research, Feldberg Prize for Anglo-German Scientific Exchange; Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research; ISPEN Foundation Prize; Henry Wisniewiski Prize; Max Plank Prize for International Scientific Collaboration, Klaus-Joachim Zulch Prize for Neurology and more recently the Lennox K. Black International Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research (2006). He was awarded an honoris causa degree in Medicine from Kuopio University, Finland and the Federal Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. He was also awarded the Windermere Traveling Professorship at Melbourne. He is a Member of the Heidleberg Academy for Humanities and Natural Sciences and Deutsche Academie der Naturforscher Leopoldia in Halle and corresponding member of the Gottenger Academy for Sciences and Natural Sciences.
After his retirement in 2007, Professor Beyreuther was appointed Senior Professor Emeritus at Heidelberg University. He is also Director of Aging research Network there.
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.