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Spillantini Lab



Maria Grazia Spillantini is Professor of Molecular Neurology in the Clinical School of the University of Cambridge. She was born in Arezzo, Italy, grew up in Caprese Michelangelo and Pieve Santo Stefano and attended high school in Sansepolcro. After receiving a Laurea in Biological Sciences, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Florence, she pursued research at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology of the University of Florence, at the Instituto Superiore di Sanita’ in Rome, at the Unité de Neurobiologie of the INSERM in Paris and at the Molecular Neurobiology Unit of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge.

In 1987 she moved to the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where first, working with Dr Michel Goedert and Prof. Sir Aaron Klug, she obtained a PhD in Molecular Biology from Cambridge University and continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow in the same lab, with a short period at the Institute of Cell Biology of the CNR in Rome, where she obtained a group leader position.

In 1996 she moved to the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and in 2014 to the Clifford Allbutt Building, both in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences of the University of Cambridge. Her group works on the molecular neuropathology of diseases characterised by tau and alpha-synuclein aggregates. With her collaborators, she identified alpha-synuclein as the main component of the filaments that form the Lewy bodies in Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, and described one of the first mutations in the MAPT gene leading to frontotemporal dementia and Parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17. 

Maria Grazia Spillantini has received several international Prizes including the Potamkin Prize of the American Academy of Neurology, the Cotzias Prize of the Spanish Neurological Society, the Van Andel Prize for outstanding achievements in Parkinson’s disease research and the 2017 Camillo Golgi Medal from the Camillo Golgi Foundation. In 2018, she was conferred the Officer of the Order of the Star of Italy from the President of the Republic of Italy (UOSI) and, in 2020, she was awarded the Tudichum Medal from the UK Biochemical Soceity. Additionally, she is a Member of the Academia Europaea and a Member of L'Academia Nazionale della Scienze detta dei XL. She was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, London in 2010, Fellow of the Royal Society, London in 2013, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, UK in 2021. Most recently, in 2024, Maria Grazia Spillantini was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). She is also Professorial Fellow at Clare Hall and a life member of Peterhouse College, Cambridge.