World-renowned neurogeneticist to join UF Health


On Sept. 1, renowned neurogeneticist Matthew Farrer, Ph.D., internationally recognized for his work on the genetics of Parkinson’s disease, will join UF Health, the University of Florida’s academic health center.

Farrer will be named an endowed chair of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health in Parkinson’s disease research and will serve as a professor of neurology and director of the Clinical Genomics Program, part of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“Dr. Farrer will add another dimension to our elite team of researchers and physicians at UF Health,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “The addition of Dr. Farrer shows our commitment to becoming a top destination for neurological research, education and clinical care in the U.S. and beyond.”

Farrer will relocate his team from Vancouver, Canada, where he serves as a professor of medical genetics and director of the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics at the University of British Columbia, to work with neuroscience and neurogenetic teams across the UF campus, including at the Fixel Institute and UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute and Center for Neurogenetics.

A self-described “gene hunter,” Farrer’s goal is to predict and prevent neurological disorders. 

Farrer’s lab established the genetic basis for familial and idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and has driven the development of related disease models. These molecular targets and mechanistic insights have become the basis of clinical trials in precision medicine by many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. The therapies being tested are specifically designed to modify disease progression by improving symptoms and slowing, and ideally halting, the disease. His team will also contribute to our understanding of the underlying causes of conditions such as dystonia and seizure disorders.

“At UF, we think outside the box to move research forward,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., chair of the UF department of neurology and executive director of the Fixel Institute. “Dr. Farrer embodies this philosophy and will continue to expand our genetic understanding of Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and other neurologic disorders. Collaborating with the talented researchers here at UF, we can’t wait to see where he leads the field next.”

Farrer received his undergraduate degree from King’s College London and his graduate degree from Imperial College London’s St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. He went on to complete fellowship training in medical genetics at St. Mark’s Hospital’s Kennedy-Galton Centre in London and in neurogenetics at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

Prior to his current roles at the University of British Columbia, Farrer directed several neurogenetics laboratories at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, and in 2008 earned the Distinguished Mayo Clinic Investigator Award for efforts to discover new treatments for patients suffering from neurologic disease by refining diagnosis through the identification of biomarkers of early and progressive disease.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Farrer join our team of neuroscientists at UF,” said Todd E. Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida. “Dr. Farrer is a pioneer in Parkinson’s disease research. His talent and interests will synergize with ongoing efforts at UF to help us make significant progress in our fight to find novel interventions that help those suffering from devastating neurological disorders.”

Farrer joins a group of newly recruited elite researchers enabled by a $20 million gift in January, from the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation, which was matched by UF to establish the Fixel Institute, a world-class medical hub focused on the pursuit of novel therapies to treat some of the most complex neurological diseases.

Other recent hires resulting from the gift include Malú G. Tansey, Ph.D., a professor of physiology and director of the Center for Neurodysfunction and Inflammation at Emory University School of Medicine; Matthew LaVoie, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Stefan Prokop, M.D., a neuropathology fellow and research fellow at the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“When you get a lot of smart people in the same room trying to solve similar problems, really good things happen,” said Kelly Foote, M.D., a UF neurosurgeon and co-director of the Fixel Institute. “And we will make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people suffering from these complex neurological disorders.”  

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