Professor Richard Faull has spent 35 years studying the human brain so he can help people affected by brain disorders including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.

His efforts are recognised internationally and in 2007 he was awarded the Rutherford Medal - the highest honour for New Zealand scientists. Last night, the neuroscientist was honoured again as Supreme Winner of the 2010 World Class New Zealand Awards at the Langham Hotel in Auckland.

The 7th annual awards, also known as the "tall poppy awards", celebrate the achievements of innovators and entrepreneurs who have made significant contributions to the country's growth and development.

While Dr Faull found the award "incredible and humbling", he said that his work would not be possible without the generosity of sufferers of brain disease and their families, who donated brains for scientific research.

"I call the families the heroes of the disease because they've got to live with the disease 24 hours day. And if it's a genetic disease its even more than that because it can be passed on to them and their children," he said.

"We can help them by doing scientific research to understand the tragedy of their lives."

Dr Faull is the director of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland and founder of the Neurological Foundation of NZ brain bank, which hosts 400 brains.

"It's this magic box which you've got to look after," he said of the brain. "You can do things on the outside but you can't rewire it on the inside."

Sir Stephen Tindall, chairman of the awards' judging panel, described Dr Faull's achievements as ground-breaking.

* The inaugural Friend of New Zealand category: Investor and philanthropist Julian Robertson of The Robertson Foundation.
* Biotechnology: Dr Jilly Evans, founder and vice-president of Amira Pharmaceuticals.
* Finance, Investment & Business Services: Sir Ron Carter, former managing director of Beca Carter.
* Manufacturing: Bill Gallagher, chief executive of the Gallagher Group.
* Research, Science, Technology & Academia: Dr Ian Witten, head of the New Zealand Digital Library Research Group, University of Waikato.
* New Thinking: Dr Kerry Spackman, neuroscientist, author and owner of The Winners Institute LLC.
* Information & Communications Technology: Ian McCrae, chief executive of Orion Health.
* Creative Industries: Mark D'Arcy, president and chief creative officer, Time Warner Global Media Group and senior vice-president Time Warner.