The medal, which is awarded annually, recognizes individuals who have made lasting contributions to science and engineering.
Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, a professor of neurology at the UCSF School of Medicine and director of its Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, is being lauded for the discovery and ongoing research of an infectious agent, a protein called a prion.
Prions have been found to cause mad cow disease and other fatal neurodegenerative diseases in humans and animals, UCSF said.
Prusiner, 68, and his colleagues are working to find better methods of detecting prions and to develop treatments for prion diseases.
Prusiner has also been researching cures and ways to prevent other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Prusiner, who won a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1997 for the discovery, is the fourth UCSF scientist to be awarded the National Medal of Science, according to the university.
The White House also named a team from Santa Clara’s Intel Corp. as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Three other individuals also received the award.
Recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year.
The National Medal of Science is administered by the National Science Foundation, which Congress established in 1959. A committee of presidential appointees selects the nominees.