Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Dr. Tanzi is the Vice-Chair of Neurology, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, and Co-Director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and serves as the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Tanzi served on the team that was the first to find a disease gene (Huntington’s disease) using human genetic markers, helping to launch the field of neurogenetics. Through his research, he also discovered the Wilson’s disease gene and several other neurological disease genes. Dr. Tanzi then went on to co-discover all three early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease genes and has identified several other AD genes during his role as leader of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project, a research project of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.

Dr. Tanzi and his team used Alzheimer’s genes and human stem cells to create “Alzheimer’s-in-a-Dish”; a three-dimensional human stem cell-derived neural culture system that was the first to recapitulate both pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease: plaques and tangles. This model has made drug screening for Alzheimer’s disease considerably faster and more effective. Using this system, Dr. Tanzi has developed several novel therapies for AD including gamma secretase modulators aimed at plaque pathology. Most recently, he and his team have discovered that beta-amyloid, the main component of senile plaques, may play a role in the innate immune system of the brain operating as an anti-microbial peptide, suggesting a possible role for infection in the etiology and pathogenesis of AD.

Additionally, Dr. Tanzi serves on dozens of editorial boards and was named to TIME magazine’s list of TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World. He also co-authored the books “Decoding Darkness”, and the three international bestsellers, “Super Brain”, “Super Genes”, and “The Healing Self”.

Background and Education

Dr. Tanzi received his BS from the University of Rochester with a double major in Microbiology and History and his PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard University. He has received the highest awards in his field, including the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award, Potamkin Prize, Ronald Reagan Award, Silver Innovator Award, and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award; the top national award for invention and innovation.


See Dr. Tanzi’s research on PubMed.

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