Leading science, pioneering therapies

Tilo Kunath wins prestigious award for Parkinson’s research

22 August 2019

Congratulations to Dr Tilo Kunath, Group Leader at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, who has won the Tom Isaacs Award 2019 for his outstanding work in Parkinson’s research. 

The Tom Isaacs Award was created in memory of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s (CPT) co-founder and President Tom Isaacs who died in May 2017, aged 49. It is presented annually by CPT and the Van Andel Institute, Michigan to a researcher who has shown the greatest impact on the lives of people living with Parkinson’s and/or has involved people with Parkinson’s in a participatory way in their work.

Joy Milne and Dr Tilo Kunath

Dr Kunath was chosen as this year’s recipient in recognition of his empathy and enthusiastic engagement with the Parkinson’s community and for his willingness to share his expert research knowledge. He was nominated by a number of people in the Parkinson's community because, as one person describes, 'He whole-heartedly supports the Edinburgh Parkinson’s group and regularly hosts research interest group meetings'. Another person described Dr Kunath as 'always willing to respond to questions about both his and other areas of research, by email or in person'. Another person praised Dr Kunath's commitment to the Parkinson's community saying, 'he regularly runs the PD Park Run supporting people with Parkinson’s'.

Dr Kunath obtained his PhD from the University of Toronto in 2003, and conducted postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Stem Cell Research at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2007 he has run his own laboratory in Edinburgh, where he has pioneered work into the development of cell replacement therapies as a treatment for Parkinson’s. 

He recently made headlines for his work with Dr Joy Milne. Joy noticed her late husband’s scent change around 12 years before his diagnosis. At a research meeting with many people with Parkinson’s present, she then noticed many of them carried a similar scent.  She bravely reported this to Dr Kunath who pursued this idea further, contacting researchers at the University of Manchester who have now identified chemicals in the skin responsible for a unique scent in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Joy Milne, who presented Dr Kunath with the award in Edinburgh, said:

‘His enthusiastic dedication to the Edinburgh Parkinson’s Group is also greatly appreciated and he is spoken of so affectionately by them, he is truly seen as a knight in shining armour here. Through his work in bringing scientists and neurologists together in Edinburgh, he has given people with Parkinson’s and their carers the opportunity to listen to some of the most prestigious speakers in this field.’

The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s Deputy CEO, Helen Matthews, said:

‘This award is hugely deserved.  Tilo embodies the spirit of the award.  He inspires the Parkinson’s community in Scotland and his proactive approach of involving people living with Parkinson’s with research, listening to the community to inform research is exemplary.  Thank you Tilo for all you do.’

Dr Tilo Kunath and Tom Isaacs


Ellie Roger
Institute for Regeneration and Repair
0131 651 9509