Studer, 49, was recognized for his research into a possible cure for Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.
The scientist has “designed a process to transform stem cells into dopamine-producing brain cells that are unprecedented in quantity and quality,” the MacArthur Foundation said in announcing the grant.
“His method has been used to successfully transplant neurons in animal models and reverse movement problems caused by Parkinson’s, which could lead to the first true cure for Parkinson’s disease,” the foundation said.
“He is currently initiating human clinical trials for transplantation of neurons created with his method for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”
Studer received a candidate medical degree from Switzerland’s University of Fribourg in 1987, followed by an MD degree (1991) from the University of Bern, where he obtained a doctorate in 1994.
He held several research positions at the University of Bern and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke within the National Institutes of Health.
Studer is currently director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.
He is one of 24 MacArthur Fellows announced under a unique programme designed to reward “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and marked capacity for self-direction.”
Recipients of what are sometimes called “genius” fellowships can be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs or those in other fields, with the sole requirement being that they must be a resident or citizen of the United States, without being an elected official or senior government official.
Nominations are evaluated by an independent selection committee which makes recommendations to the MacArthur Foundation board.
The “no-strings” fellowships are paid in quarterly instalments over five years.