Professor Angela Vincent, a key member of our Scientific Advisory Panel, has been honoured with the K-J Zülch Prize for outstanding achievement in neurological research.

The award is shared with Professor Josep Dalmau, who will be speaking at the Encephalitis Conference in December, and Professor Jerome Posner.

The Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation paid tribute to the trio for their research into how autoimmunity produces these neurological disorders that include paraneoplastic and non-paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes and the antibody-mediated autoimmune encephalitis syndromes.

The foundation described their work as being pivotal in ensuring that many of these disorders are now recognised and patients promptly treated offering the best opportunity for neurologic improvement.

The prize, which is endowed with 50,000 Euros, took place in Cologne, Germany, on September 21.

Professor Vincent said: “I am honoured to have won the K.J. Zülch prize in recognition of our work on immune-mediated neurological diseases. I would also like to thank my colleagues at Somerville who have been a constant source of kindness and friendship over the last 30 years of my career.”

Professor Vincent is the Professor Emeritus of Neuroimmunology at Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford University.


Medical practitioners have long been aware that autoimmune brain diseases can occur in patients with cancer. The scientists have made crucial advances in research into these immune diseases by providing detailed clinical descriptions and through the development of simple diagnostic tests, allowed practitioners to quickly recognise, diagnose, and treat these patients. Their work has also provided insights into how cancers and other triggers such as viral infections initiate the autoimmune attack. This has opened new avenues to research into how to prevent and optimally treat these diseases. For some patients, recognition of the autoimmune neurologic symptoms leads to the detection of a previously undetected cancer, allowing early cancer treatment and an increased chance of cure.

These diseases were largely unknown to the public but gained attention when in 2011 a polar bear named Knut drowned in his pool at the Berlin Zoological Garden. An autopsy revealed that one of the antibody-mediated autoimmune encephalitis syndromes known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis caused his unexpected demise. Then in 2012, a patient with this same disease wrote a best-selling novel about her experience.

The American Jerome Posner is considered a pioneer in the field of research into these syndromes and their causes, having systematically described many of the paraneoplastic diseases for the first time and developing the first blood tests used to diagnose these disorders. His former colleague from Barcelona, Spain, Josep Dalmau is known for discovering several autoimmune encephalitis syndromes, developing diagnostic tests, and revealing the mechanisms whereby the autoantibodies are directly responsible for the brain dysfunction. 

British-born Angela Vincent initially studied autoimmune diseases of the peripheral nervous system in which signal transmission between nerves and muscles are impaired. This led her to the then revolutionary insight that certain antibodies can also attack the central nervous system. She subsequently developed the diagnostic methods widely used in hospitals today.

The Prize Winners

For many years, Jerome Posner was Head of Neurooncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Cornell University in New York. Following his medical studies in Barcelona, Josep Dalmau initially worked as a neurologist before continuing his scientific career in Jerome Posner’s laboratory. He currently holds professorships at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Barcelona.

Angela Vincent, a medically-qualified neuroimmunologist, worked at University College in London with the late Ricardo Miledi, and the Royal Free Hospital with the late John Newsom-Davis. She spent the last 30 years at the University of Oxford where until recently she ran a national and international diagnostic antibody service and research group. She currently holds honorary positions in Oxford and London.

The Zülch Prize

The K. J. Zülch Prize 2018 will be awarded at 10 o’clock on the 21th of September 2018 in the Hansasaal (main hall) at Cologne's historic City Hall. Following the laudations by Uwe Schlegel and Thomas Münte, Angela Vincent will talk about her research into autoimmune diseases of the peripheral and central nervous system. Following the laudation by Mathias Bähr, Josep Dalmau will talk about the discovery of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation

Gertrud Reemtsma established the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation in 1989 in memory of her deceased brother, the neurologist Prof. Dr. Klaus Joachim Zülch, former Director of the Cologne Department of General Neurology at the Max-Planck-Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt. In setting up the Foundation, Gertrud Reemtsma intended to keep the memory of her brother’s scientific work alive and to recognize and promote exceptional achievements in basic research in neurology. Gertrud Reemtsma first came into contact with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin-Buch at the end of the 1930s, where together with the founder of neurosurgery in Germany, Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Tönnis, her brother worked successfully as a neuropathologist and neurologist.

The Max Planck Society administers the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation as a trust. The Foundation’s goal is to promote and recognize exceptional scientific achievements in basic neurological research. The Foundation also supports the funding of PhD scholarships. In addition, the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation awards the K.J. Zülch-Prize each year for exceptional achievements in basic neurological research.

The Board of Trustees decides on the allocation of the Foundation's proceeds, the nomination of K. J. Zülch Prize winners and the final choice of grant recipients. The Secretary's Office of the Foundation handles the day-to-day business.