Virginia M.-Y. Lee, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Virginia Man-Yee Lee, PhDDirector, CNDR
The John H. Ware 3rd Professor in Alzheimer's Research
Professor, Pathology and Lab Medicine
Co-Director, Marian S. Ware Center for Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Program


Mailing Address:

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
3600 Spruce Street, 3rd Floor Maloney Building / 4283
Office: 215-662-6427
Lab: 215-662-3292
Fax: 215-349-5909

Dr. Virginia Lee receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alzheimer's Association at its International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, 2009.Publications are available through Pubmed.

Dr. Lee's Research Focus

Virginia M.-Y. Lee’s research focuses on the etiology and pathogenesis of alpha-synuclein, tau, TDP-43, and other misfolded disease proteins in the pathobiology of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), frontotemporal dementias (FTD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A multidisciplinary approach, that includes biochemical and molecular studies of neuronal culture systems, animal models and human tissues obtained at autopsy, is used in the laboratory to address these research issues in common with these neurodegenerative diseases. Other research efforts focus on an increased understanding of the collaborative initiatives to advance drug discovery in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Her work has demonstrated that tau, alpha-synuclein, and TDP-43 proteins form unique brain aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases and has provided critical evidence that aggregation of brain proteins is a common mechanistic theme in diverse neurodegenerative diseases including AD, PD, FTLD, ALS and related disorders. Significantly, Dr. Lee's studies implicated the abnormal aggregation of tau alpha-synculein, and TDP-43 in mechanisms that compromise neuronal viability. Most importantly, this research has opened up new avenues of research to identify targets for drug discovery to develop better treatments for these disorders.

Dr. Lee's Bio

Dr. Virginia M.-Y. Lee is the John H. Ware 3rd Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.  Dr. Lee studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1962-1964), obtained a M.S. in Biochemistry from the University of London (1968), and received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California at San Francisco in 1973. She pursued postdoctoral studies in pharmacology at the Rudolf Magnus Institute at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands (1973-1974) and in experimental neuropathology at Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston (1974-1979), after which she assumed the position of Associate Senior Research Investigator at Smith Kline & French, Incorporated in Philadelphia from 1979-1980.

Dr. Lee joined the faculty of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1981, where she rose to the rank of Professor in 1989. While a Penn faculty member, Dr. Lee entered the Executive M.B.A. program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (1982-1984) and obtained her M.B.A. degree from Wharton in 1984. She was named the John H. Ware 3rd Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in 1999. Dr. Lee’s research focuses on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), frontotemporal dementias (FTDs) and related neurodegenerative disorders of aging.

She is the author of over 450 papers since 1970, including over 300 papers on AD, PD, FTDs and other age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Lee’s research has been recognized by a number of awards including:

Dr. Lee was named the first recipient of the John H. Ware 3rd Chair for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999, and she has served and continues to serve on a number of grant review committees, including NIH Study Sections and foundation review committees, such as the American Health Assistance Foundation. In 2004 Dr. Lee became a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging (NIH).

Thus, research advances that have emerged from Dr. Lee’s work over the past 15 years have enhanced prospects for the discovery of new and better therapies for AD, PD, FTDs and other neurodegenerative disorders caused by abnormal filamentous aggregates of brain proteins, and Dr. Lee continues to make seminal contributions to understanding mechanisms underlying these disorders.