Stanley Ben Prusiner (born May 28, 1942) is an American neurologist and biochemist. Currently the director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Prusiner discovered prions, a class of infectious self-reproducing pathogens primarily or solely composed of protein. For his prion research he received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1994 and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997.
Prusiner was born in Des Moines, Iowa and spent his childhood in Des Moines and Cincinnati, Ohio, where he attended Walnut Hills High School. Prusiner received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and later received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Prusiner then completed an internship in medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Later Prusiner moved to the National Institutes of Health, where he studied glutaminases in E. coli in the laboratory of Earl Stadtman. After three years at NIH, Prusiner returned to UCSF to complete a residency in neurology. Upon completion of the residency in 1974, Prusiner joined the faculty of the UCSF neurology department. Since that time, Prusiner has held various faculty and visiting faculty positions at both UCSF and UC Berkeley.
Prusiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997 for his work proposing an explanation for the cause of bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In this work, he coined the term prion, which comes from "proteinaceous infectious particle that lacks nucleic acid" to refer to a previously undescribed form of infection due to protein misfolding.