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Laureates / 

Harry T. Orr

Harry Orr is an American geneticist specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. He was born in Virginia and grew up in Michigan, where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1971 from Oakland University. He did his Ph.D. in neurobiology at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he studied the retina. In 1980, he completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in the laboratory of Jack Strominger, where he studied the genes encoding major proteins in the immune system.

In 1981, Orr joined the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. He is now Professor and Tulloch Chair in Genetics in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and Director of the Institute of Translational Neuroscience.

His initial work on the genetics of the immune system led to a collaboration with fellow Kavli Prize laureate Huda Zoghbi on spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA1), a neurodegenerative disease affecting motor coordination and cognition. Orr continues to study SCA1 and is working to translate those discoveries into new therapies.

Orr has twice received NIH Javits Investigator Awards from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke. He was elected to the University of Minnesota Academic Health Sciences Academy of Excellence in 2006 and the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine in 2014.