Skip to main content

Calakos, La Spada awarded distinguished professorships

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Calakos La Spada

Nicole Calakos, MD, PhD, and Al La Spada, MD, PhD, have been awarded distinguished professorships from Duke University. Duke University awarded distinguished professors to 28 faculty members this year, with 12 coming from the School of Medicine. Distinguished professorships are awarded to faculty who have demonstrated extraordinary scholarship in advancing science and improving human health. 

Calakos received the title of Lincoln Financial Group Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology, while La Spada received the title of Lincoln Financial Group Professorship of Neurobiology.

Calakos is a professor in the Departments of Neurology, Neurobiology and Cell Biology, a faculty member in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and an associate of the Duke Initiative for Science and Society. She is nationally and internationally known for her innovative research on identifying mechanisms of synaptic plasticity within the basal ganglia circuitry of the brain. This work has led to a detailed understanding of the circuitry of the basal ganglia and to important insights into how these circuits mediate motor learning and habit formation. Moreover, she has shown that these same mechanisms can lead to diseases such as dystonia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

La Spada is a professor of Neurology, Cell Biology and Neurobiology and  an international expert on neurodegenerative disease. While a MD/PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, La Spada identified the cause of X-linked spinal & bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) as an expansion of a trinucleotide repeat in the androgen receptor gene. As the first disorder shown to be caused by an expanded repeat tract, this discovery of a novel type of genetic mutation led to the emergence of new field of study. Now, at Duke, he is seeking the molecular events that underlie neurodegeneration and neuron cell death in spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7), SBMA, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease. He and his team have uncovered evidence for transcription dysregulation, perturbed bioenergetics, and altered protein quality control as contributing factors to neuron dysfunction. 

Other recipients this year from the School of Medicine are:

The 2020 recipients from the School of Medicine are:

  • David Ashley, MD, PhD, Rory David Deutsch Professor of Neuro-Oncology
  • Michael Cohen-Wolkowiez, MD, PhD, Kiser-Arena Distinguished Professor
  • Kathleen Cooney, MD, George Barth Geller Distinguished Professor of Medicine
  • Vance Fowler, MD Florence McAlister Professor of Medicine
  • Steven George, MD, MHS, Laszlo Ormandy Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Sue Jinks-Robertson, MD, PhD,Mary Bernheim Distinguished Professor
  • Manesh Patel, MD, Richard Sean Stack Distinguished Professor
  • Sallie Permar, MD, Wilburt C. Davison Distinguished Professor
  • Ponugoti Rao, PhD, Richard and Kit Barkhouser Distinguished Professor
  • Scott Soderling, PhD, George Barth Geller Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology

Read the full announcement on the website of the Duke University School of Medicine.