Pierluigi Nicotera. Prof. Pierluigi Nicotera, MD PhD, a renowned scientist and leading international expert in the field of neuronal cell death, was appointed Scientific Director of the DZNE and Chairman of the DZNE’s Executive Board in April 2009. He was trained in General Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Pavia, Italy. He obtained his PhD at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where he worked subsequently as associate professor. From 1995 to 2000 Nicotera headed the division of Molecular Toxicology at the University of Konstanz and was then appointed Director of the UK Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit. His research has been centred on the molecular mechanisms that lead to neuronal demise following chronic and acute insults. Loss of neuronal synaptic connections and apoptosis play central roles in neurodegenerative diseases.