Biography

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Dr. Safar is Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Neurology at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). He discovered previously unknown forms of prions, which led to the findings of new prion diseases, better understanding of the formation of human prions, and unraveling molecular mechanisms of prion strains. Dr. Safar invented the Conformation-Dependent Immunoassay (CDI) for detection, and Conformational Stability Assay (CSA) which are now used worldwide for differentiation of prions and prion-like proteins, and synthesized the first artificial human prion. His leadership role in the research of age-related neurodegenerative diseases caused by prions and prion-like proteins, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (ADRD), and prion diseases is internationally recognized. He had the privilege to work with two Nobel Prize Laureates.

After completing his residency, chief residency, and PhD training in Biochemistry, Dr. Safar received Research Fellowship in the Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), directed by D.C. Gajdusek (Nobel Prize for Medicine 1976). Here he demonstrated that the difference between the normal and pathogenic prion protein lies in the conformational transition, and he introduced a novel concept of the folding intermediate as a crucial stage in the prion formation. For this groundbreaking research, he received the National Institutes of Health Merit Award. In 1996, he took a position of a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in San Francisco, directed by Stanley B. Prusiner (Nobel Prize for Medicine 1997), and a position of Associate Professor at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). During his 12 years at UCSF he expanded his prion research, discovered new oligomeric forms of prions, and led a research team that developed a new concepts for ultrasensitive detection and differentiation of prions and prion-like proteins exploiting differences in their structural organization.

In 2008, Dr. Safar was offered to establish a new research laboratory and expand his research on age-related  neurodegenerative diseases caused by prions and prion-like proteins at the Department of Pathology at CWRU.

Dr. Safar’s international stature is firmly established: he served four years on the British Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), he is a member of the European Union's Prion Expert Group (Weybridge, Surrey, UK), and World Health Organization's(WHO) Advisory Board for Prion Diseases. 

He is the author of 132 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters encompassing a broad range of research in conformational protein chemistry, neuroscience, molecular biology, immunology, and neurodegeneration in human and animal models. His 1998 Nature Medicine paper is the most quoted original work published on prions in the past 20 years (Cited 920-times, Institute for Scientific Information, 1998-2019). He holds 27 patents, including one for a method to detect misfolded proteins (Prusiner, S.B., Safar, J. (1999) US Patent # 5,891,641) and another for a device that removes prions from blood, plasma and other liquids (Prusiner, S.B., Safar, J. (2001) US Patent # 6,221,614 B1).