Outstanding scientists honored for achievements in psychiatric research at 27th annual dinner
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation will honor eight scientists with its 2014 Outstanding Achievement Prizes for work delving into psychiatric disorders that affect one in four people. The awards, which celebrate the transformative power of neuroscience and psychiatric research to improve the lives of people with mental illness, will be presented at the Foundation's National Awards Dinner at the Pierre Hotel.
According to Foundation President and CEO Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., the Outstanding Achievement Prizes in five categories are among the most prestigious awards in the field of psychiatric research. The recipients were selected by the Foundation's Scientific Council, which comprises 150 leading experts across disciplines in brain and behavior research, including two Nobel Prizewinners; four former directors of the NIMH; 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences; 21 chairs of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Departments at leading medical institutions; and 47 members of the Institute of Medicine. "The 2014 Outstanding Achievement Prizewinners have dedicated their lives to solving some of the most intractable psychiatric problems in order to improve the lives of millions of people and their families," said Dr. Borenstein. "We applaud their past and future accomplishments."
The 2014 Outstanding Achievement Prizewinners are as follows:
The 2014 Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research
The Lieber Prize was established in 1987 by Constance E. Lieber, Foundation President Emerita and her husband, Stephen A. Lieber, Chair of the Foundation's Board of Directors.
David Braff, M.D., University of California San Diego School of Medicine
Dr. Braff, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Schizophrenia Program at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, is also Director and Lead Scientist of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) multi-site Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS), designed to identify the genetic basis of neurophysiologic and cognitive abnormalities of schizophrenia. A dedicated clinician and researcher, Dr. Braff's research integrates brain imaging technology, and genetic and genomic tools to look at abnormal neural circuits and brain architecture of schizophrenia; identify brain biomarkers of the cognitive and physiological deficits schizophrenia imposes; and develop behavioral and genetically determined targets for developing new medications and psychosocial therapies.
Patrick F. Sullivan, M.D., FRANZCP, Karolinska Institutet and University of North Carolina
As a psychiatric geneticist, Dr. Sullivan works to decode the molecular and cellular consequences of genetic variations underlying schizophrenia. He heads large, multinational projects across a range of disorders, dividing his time between Sweden, where he is a Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, and the University of North Carolina, where he is the M. Hayworth & Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and UNC Professor of Genetics and Psychiatry, as well as the Director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics. As founder and lead investigator of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), Dr. Sullivan directs 300 scientists from 70 institutions in 19 countries who are conducting mega-analyses, involving 90,000 participants, of genetic risk for schizophrenia, depression, autism, bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He is also the principal investigator for a Swedish genetic study of 10,000 patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, one of the few projects looking into the impact of environmental factors in these disorders.
The 2014 Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research
Established in 1993 first as the Selo Prize, then as the Falcone Prize, and finally as the Bipolar Mood Prize, the prize was re-named in 2012 to honor longtime Foundation supporter, the late Oliver D. Colvin, Jr., who bequeathed the largest single contribution in the Foundation's history.
Wayne C. Drevets, M.D., Janssen Research & Development, of Johnson & Johnson, Inc.,
Dr. Drevets's pioneering neuroanatomical and neuroimaging studies have greatly advanced the identification and delineation of abnormalities of brain structure and function in patients with unipolar and bipolar disorders, and had a major impact on the treatment of these disorders. In 2012, after a distinguished 20-year career in academia, Dr. Drevets became a Scientific Vice President and Disease Area Leader in Mood Disorders at Janssen Research & Development, of Johnson & Johnson, Inc., working to develop more effective antidepressants. Among his many contributions, Dr. Drevets identified abnormalities in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in patients with depression; advanced the use of deep brain stimulation for the treatment of resistant depression (by targeting that area); and developed imaging studies that helped identify brain areas involved in the fast-acting antidepressant effects of the medication ketamine. Dr. Drevets also demonstrated that lithium corrects the abnormal reductions in gray-matter volume in the cerebral cortex observed in patients with bipolar disorder.
Fritz A. Henn, M.D., Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
In a wide-ranging career as a researcher, clinician and scientific administrator, Dr. Henn has moved from research that created unique animal models of depression for brain exploration to his current efforts to design and test better treatments for human depressive illness, which he is leading in dual professorial posts at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Of particular importance among the models he developed were two mouse strains, one of which mimicked symptoms of human depression, and the other which was stress-resistant. From this work, Dr. Henn identified a little-known discrete area of brain that was hyperactive in both depressed animals and humans-the lateral habenula. If activity in this area is normalized, the animals no longer show depression-like behavior. He now has found a potential chemical treatment that decreases activity in the lateral habenula in animals and is conducting a clinical trial of it in patients with depression.
The Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research
The Ruane Prize was initiated in 2000 by philanthropists Joy and William Ruane, and recognizes significant advances in research toward the understanding and treatment of early-onset brain and behavior disorders.
Anita Thapar M.D., Ph.D., Cardiff University School of Medicine
In 1999, Dr. Thapar was appointed the Cardiff University School of Medicine's first Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Wales. There, she founded and leads the Academic Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences and Developmental Disorders at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. Dr. Thapar's research has focused mainly on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More recently, she has been looking into adolescent depression and familial risk, focusing on the processes that contribute to cross-generational transmission and the mechanisms of resilience. In early twin studies, Dr. Thapar and her team helped to establish the strong genetic component in ADHD, and later identified large, rare chromosomal deletions and duplications associated with risk for developing ADHD that overlap with genetic risks for autism and schizophrenia. She has designed novel ways to examine interactions between genetic and environmental factors involved in the risk for ADHD.
The Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience
The Goldman-Rakic Prize was created by Constance and Stephen Lieber in memory of Patricia Goldman-Rakic, a neuroscientist renowned for discoveries about the brain's frontal lobe, who died in an automobile accident in 2003.
Richard L. Huganir, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Medicine Brain Science Institute
Dr. Huganir is Professor in the Departments of Biological Chemistry and of Pharmacology and Director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Brain Science Institute. His research focuses on synapses and the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the transmission of signals across the synapse and throughout the brain. Through studies concentrating on the receptors that mediate the response of neurons to neurotransmitters released at synapses, Dr. Huganir has shown that regulation of receptor function is a major mechanism for regulation of neuronal connectivity and critical for many higher brain processes, including learning and memory, as well as for brain development. His work has advanced understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of neurotransmitter receptor functions, which has vital importance to studies of the cause and potential new treatments for such disorders as schizophrenia, autism, dementias, mental retardation and addictions.
The Sidney R. Baer, Jr., Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research
The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize has been awarded since 2005 and is funded by the Sidney R. Baer, Jr., Foundation. The prize honors exceptional young scientists selected by this year's Lieber Prizewinners.
Gregory A. Light, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Dr. Light is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Associate Director of the UCSD Schizophrenia Research Program, which Dr. Braff directs, and UCSD Site Coordinator for the NIH Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS), a multi-institutional program under Dr. Braff's direction. He is also Associate Director of the Clinical Neuroscience and Genomics Unit of the San Diego Veterans Affairs Department.
According to Dr. Braff, "Dr. Light's elegant series of 'NextGen' neurophysiological studies suggest that careful analyses of the electrical signals of brain activity, measured using electroencephalography (EEG), may reveal important harmonic relationships in the activity of brain circuits. ... Abnormalities in the structure and function of brain circuits would be reflected in cacophonous music, chords where the musical 'notes' are firing at the wrong rate (pitch), volume (amplitude), or timing. It is increasingly evident that schizophrenia is a disorder characterized by disturbances in the 'music of the brain hemispheres.'"
Stephan Ripke, M.D., Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), Charit- Universit-tsmedizin Berlin
As statistical analyst for the PGC, Dr. Ripke performs the combined analysis of the raw genetic data from PGC members, which involves some 100 datasets from research groups from many countries. The computer pipeline he created standardizes data, imputes missing values, performs the final analysis and brings the results into a displayable format tool. Dr. Sullivan says, "Dr Ripke has been at the center of genomic discovery for schizophrenia since 2008, designing, implementing, and running the genomic analysis pipeline that is the cornerstone of the efforts of the PGC, making critical contributions to our knowledge of the genetic basis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism." From 2008 until returning to his native Germany this past summer, Dr. Ripke was at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is continuing his association with the PGC at the Charit- Universit-tsmedizin Berlin, the oldest and most prominent hospital and medical school in Berlin.