Researching Parkinson’s Disease Together

Randy Scheckman, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cell biology, UC-Berkeley and Nobel Laureate, (speaking at head of table) meets with members of the OHSU Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Program, OHSU School of Medicine, during a March 2 campus visit. Center director Joseph Quinn is second from left.

Good things happen when you bring together clinicians, researchers, trainees – and a Nobel Laureate.

Nobel Prize winner Randy Schekman, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, visited OHSU on March 2, 2023, to meet with clinicians and researchers who are interested in Parkinson’s disease. He was invited by his friend and colleague Marina Ralle, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and medical genetics, who collaborates with his partner, National Academy of Sciences member Sabeeha Merchant, Ph.D.

Schekman is also the scientific director of a three-year-old research funding initiative, “Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s” (ASAP). Joseph Quinn, M.D,. Director of the Parkinson’s Center at OHSU, organized a group of interested researchers and trainees to attend a lively 2-hour session.  Dr. Schekman talked about how this funding initiative works and about the personal journey that led to his becoming scientific director. Along the way, the group also had a stimulating exchange about Parkinson’s disease, with each attendee presenting a summary of their own research interests. Dr. Schekman’s presentation helped attendees to better understand the rationale for the ASAP funding initiative—and for trainees, said Dr. Ralle, “having a personal interaction with a Nobel Laureate who is kind and approachable was an inspiration.”

Sierra Smith, Ph.D. candidate, noted, “It was wonderful to hear Dr. Schekman speak about his work with Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s. I appreciated his perspective and focus on team science and how important collaborations are to move research forward in an amazing way.”

Schekman was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with James Rothman and Thomas Südhof, for their elucidation of how proteins are transported and secreted by cells. Schekman’s work is fundamental to our understanding of cell physiology and is relevant for immunological disorders, diabetes, and neurological conditions—including Parkinson’s disease.

In the photo, clockwise from Dr. Scheckman are: Lee Nielson, M.D., assistant professor of neurology; Amie Hiller, MD, associate professor of neurology; Joseph Quinn, M.D., professor of neurology and center director; Charles Meshul, Ph.D., professor emeritus of behavioral neuroscience and pathology and laboratory medicine; Vivek Unni, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology; Gregory Scott, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine (against the wall); Trevor McFarland, senior research associate, anesthesiology and perioperative medicine; Sierra Smith, Ph.D. candidate; Julie Saugstad, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine; Joseph Lebowitz, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Vollum Institute, and Martina Ralle, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and medical genetics.

Note: This post was update on March 14, 2023 to include Dr. Joe Quinn in the photo caption.