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Dr. Ingrid Scheffer

Laureate 2012 for Asia-Pacific for the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women In Science Award

Dr. Ingrid Scheffer

Ingrid Scheffer, Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and Chair of Pediatric Neurology Research at the University of Melbourne, is one of the five recipients of the 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Awards.  The award, which includes a $100,000 prize will be formally presented at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in March, 2012.

Professor Scheffer’s award was based on her extensive work that has resulted in major paradigm shifts in epilepsy syndromology and classification over many years. Her work has formed the essential basis for successful gene discovery such that her larger collaborative group has been the leaders in epilepsy gene identification for 14 years since they discovered the first gene associated with epilepsy. This body of work has resulted in insights into the biology of seizures.

Dr Scheffer and her colleagues have described a range of novel syndromes, contributing especially to our understanding of sodium channel disorders.  Her work has meant that children and adults with Dravet syndrome and related epilepsies are diagnosed earlier and treated appropriately which improves their long term outcomes. Her recent delineation of a disorder occurring exclusively in females, Epilepsy limited to Females with Mental Retardation, is changing the way family histories are interpreted and will benefit affected women and transmitting men by improving genetic counseling. Her most recent research has shown that a glucose transporter defect causes absence epilepsies in young children.  This observation is important as it changes our concepts of the underlying neurobiology of genetic epilepsies.

In the past Dr. Scheffer has received the American Epilepsy Society Research Recognition Award. She has served the ILAE in many capacities (including the Genetics Commission) over the years and is at present the Chair of the ILAE Commission for Classification and Terminology.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards, which were first created in 1998, recognize five outstanding women researchers each year who have contributed to scientific progress.  There is one Laureate from the five major regions of the world: Africa and Arab States, Asia (including Oceania and Pacific), Europe, Latin America and North America.  Each winner receives a $100,000 award. It is intended that these exceptional women scientists serve as role models for the next generation, encouraging young women around the world to follow in their footsteps. 

Almost two thousand eminent members of the scientific community propose candidates for the Awards. Two juries, one in the Life Sciences, the other in the Physical Sciences, meet in alternating years to select the Laureates from these fields of research. The 2012 International Life Sciences Jury was chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor Günter Blobel. Also participating in the jury was Professor Christian de Duve (Nobel Prize in Medicine 1974) and Founding President of the L’Oreal-UNESCO Awards.  Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, is Honorary President of the Jury. 

With the 2012 Awards, 72 women from 30 countries, whose exceptional and exemplary careers in science have opened up new and sometimes revolutionary ways of improving human well-being, will have been recognized

Dr. Scheffer’s award is the first for an epilepsy researcher, and this prize provides great visibility to the work throughout the epilepsy research community.  It is also an example of the great strides that can be made when a talented group of researches combine their complementary skills.  Dr. Scheffer and her colleagues have provided an outstanding example of how to move our field forward.   

To learn more about the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Program and Awards, visit www.forwomeninscience.com.


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