Young neurobiologist wins Latsis Prize

Silvia Arber, winner of the 2003 Latsis prize. FNS

The daughter of a Nobel prizewinner has been awarded this year's prestigious Latsis Prize for research that could help scientists better understand diseases.

This content was published on October 15, 2003 - 10:10

Silvia Arber, a 35-year-old neurobiologist at Basel University, discovered that the human nervous system is not entirely pre-programmed but develops over time.

The prize, which comes with a cheque of SFr100,000 ($75,100), is awarded annually by Switzerland’s National Science Foundation, and is aimed at encouraging young researchers.

This year’s prizewinner is the daughter of Werner Arber, the winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Arber’s research on the neuronal circuit formation in the developing spinal cord has been praised as a breakthrough.

“If we understand how the nervous system is built during development, we will be able to understand how diseases come about, and why a nervous system doesn’t function anymore,” Arber told swissinfo.

Arber’s research, which took several years, focused on how neuronal networks form during development and how muscles are connected back to the nervous system.

“We also looked into how an animal can walk in the way it does, so each muscle is contracting at the right stage during the cycle of walking,” she said.

Nobel Prize

Arber, an assistant professor, admitted that her family background had been instrumental in guiding her along her present career path.

“My father won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1978, and I think that influenced my way of thinking a lot,” she said.

She said receiving the Latsis prize meant a great deal to her as it showed she was on the right track and that the research she was doing was relevant.

“Switzerland recognises the importance of fundamental basic research and that’s really important to me and to a lot of other people in research,” she said.

The prize will be handed over during a ceremony in the capital, Bern, on January 15.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling and Faryal Mirza


The Swiss National Science Foundation awards the Latsis Prize annually.

The SFr100,000 award is aimed at encouraging young researchers.

Silvia Arber is the daughter of Werner Arber – the 1978 winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine.

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