Dr. J. William Langston is the Chief Scientific Officer and Founder of the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, he served as faculty member at Stanford University Medical School and Chairman of Neurology at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California before founding the Parkinson’s Institute. Dr. Langston gained national and international recognition in 1980s for the discovery of the link between a tainted “synthetic heroin” and parkinsonism. The bad batch of heroin proved to contain a substance known as MPTP, which is selectively toxic to the same nerve cells in the brain that die in Parkinson’s disease. The discovery of the biologic effects of this compound led to a renaissance of the basic and clinical research in Parkinson’s disease.
He authored or co-authored 360 publications in the field of neurology, most of which are on Parkinson’s’ disease and related disorders. Dr. Langston’s current research interests include the study of mechanisms of neuronal degeneration, the etiology of Parkinson’s disease, the development of new strategies to slow or halt disease progression, and ways to identify the disease in its earliest “pre-motor” stages. He has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Achievement Award from Modern Medicine, the Sarah M. Poiley Award from the New York Academy of Sciences, the James Parkinson 30th Anniversary Award from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the Distinguished Clinical Investigator Award from Roche Pharmaceuticals, and Movement Disorders Research Award from the American Academy of Neurology. He is the founding member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which he continues to serve on.
Dr. Langston’s work has been featured in both print and broadcast media including major network newscasts, the BBC Evening News, Prime Time Live, 20/20, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and the McNeil-Lehrer Report. His work has been profiled in both Time and Newsweek and has been the subject of two NOVA programs on PBS: “The Case of the Frozen Addicts” and “Brain Transplants”. He published a book, which is also titled “The Case of the Frozen Addicts” as well as editing numerous scientific texts. Most recently he and his work were profiled on the 2009 PBS Frontline “Special Report on Parkinson’s: My Father, My Brother, and Me”.