NARSAD Announces Discovery to Recovery National Awards Dinner Honoring Outstanding Achievements in Mental Health Research

Posted: October 12, 2010

Contact: Barbara Wheeler


Six brilliant researchers will receive NARSAD Outstanding Achievement Awards for accomplishments in...

NARSAD Announces Discovery to Recovery National Awards Dinner
Honoring Outstanding Achievements in Mental Health Research

(GREAT NECK, N.Y. – October 12, 2010) Six brilliant researchers will receive NARSAD Outstanding Achievement Awards for accomplishments in brain and behavior research. NARSAD is the leading donor-supported organization dedicated to funding mental health research that will to lead to scientific discovery and ultimately recovery for people living with mental illness. Since 1987 NARSAD has awarded more than $260 million in 3,832 grants to 3,132 scientists around the world.

“NARSAD is thrilled to be honoring these leaders in mental health research,” said Benita Shobe, NARSAD president and CEO. “They are leading the way to breakthroughs that will improve the lives of the one in four Americans with a debilitating mental illness today. Their extraordinary accomplishments are representative of the cutting-edge scientific research NARSAD funds in order to make new discoveries on the pathway toward recovery for countless individuals and their families.”

NARSAD Outstanding Achievement Award winners are dedicated teachers and scientists. Their prizes recognize individual leadership in the field and represent models of accomplishment for younger scientists in brain and behavior research. This reinforces the commitment NARSAD makes to nurture and invest in the most promising ideas in mental health research.

Awardees will be honored at the NARSAD National Awards Dinner October 29 and speak at a public Mental Health Research Symposium in New York City, also October 29.

The prize winners are:
Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research
Ming T. Tsuang, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Tsuang is a world-renowned leader in the genetics of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (or manic-depression) and substance abuse. He is the director of UCSD’s Center for Behavioral Genomics and concurrently directs the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics in Boston. He is also a member of the NARSAD Scientific Council. Dr. Tsuang’s seminal achievements began early in his career. His 1965 Ph.D. thesis, a study of siblings with psychiatric disorders, postulated multiple-gene causality for schizophrenia, a theory that is now widely accepted. He went on to develop some of the world’s largest samples of sibling pairs for genetics research. He led a 40-year study that provided the first evidence of a distinction between schizophrenia and affective disorders, as well as clinical criteria for subtypes of schizophrenia. His current quest is to identify predisposing traits for schizophrenia toward the ultimate goal of learning how to stop psychiatric disorders before they start.

Outstanding Achievement Prize for Mood Disorders Research
Lars Vedel Kessing, M.D., D.M.Sc.
University of Copenhagen
Dr. Kessing is a professor of psychiatry and director of the mood disorders clinic at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, in Denmark. His scientific focus encompasses clinical, epidemiological and neurobiological studies of affective disorders, particularly unipolar depression and bipolar disorder, for which he draws upon a nationwide Danish data base. In the laboratory and the clinic, Dr. Kessing and his group explore a broad range of questions focusing on the onset and course of mood disorders, considering such factors as the effects of other illnesses, age, gender, and genetic and familial risks on the onset of illness, as well as the risk of dementia associated with depression and the efficacy of currently prescribed medications. A leader in scientific and medical activities in his country and internationally, Dr. Kessing chairs the Danish Society for Affective Disorders, established in 2009. Among his honors, he received the prestigious Nielsen Prize and the Larsens Foundation Prize in Denmark.

Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Childhood Psychiatric Disorders
Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D.
Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and Institute of Psychiatry/King’s College London
Dr. Caspi’s research focuses on understanding how childhood experiences shape the course of health inequalities through a lifetime and how genetic differences shape the way people respond to their environments. Dr. Caspi uses the tools of psychology, epidemiology and neuroscience in his research, and has made significant contributions to understanding the development of mental illness within the context of specific environments and childhood experiences. He has served on the executive council of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development and has been recognized widely for his research, having received many prestigious awards for his research on adolescents and the developmental process of mental illness.

Terrie E. Moffitt, Ph.D.
Duke University and Institute of Psychiatry and Neuroscience/King’s College London
Dr Moffitt is being recognized for her study of how the environment and genes interact to shape human behavior and affect mental health. She directs the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which is following 1,100 British families with twins born in 1994-1995 from the twins’ birth to the present. Dr. Moffitt has made valuable contributions to understanding the origins and consequences of severe anti-social behavior, and has also studied young people’s depression, psychosis and substance abuse. Her work shows the importance of recognizing the childhood origins of adult mental and physical health. She is the associate director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit of the Dunedin School of Medicine, in New Zealand, which has been following 1,000 New Zealanders since their birth in 1972. Her work has been recognized with a Distinguished Career Award in Clinical Child Psychology from the American Psychological Association, and numerous other awards.

Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience
Robert C. Malenka, M.D., Ph.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Malenka has been at the forefront of efforts to apply new knowledge achieved through basic neuroscience to the treatment and prevention of neuropsychiatric disorders. He directs the Pritzker Laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-directs the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences. Dr. Malenka’s research is aimed at understanding neurotransmission – the process of cell-to-cell message relay in the brain. Over the past 25 years his findings have helped to lay the groundwork for a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which neural circuits are modified by experience and the adaptations in nerve-cell communication that underlie normal and pathological behavior. His laboratory’s current work on brain disorders involving dysfunction at the synapse – the junction where nerve cells converse – includes investigations of addiction, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. He is also a member of the NARSAD Scientific Council and has received numerous other prestigious awards throughout his career.

Sidney R. Baer Jr. Prize for Schizophrenia Research
Stephen J. Glatt, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Upstate Medical University
In research centered on the genetic and environmental contributors to major mental illnesses, Dr. Glatt is examining candidate genes and conducting genome-wide studies. He is seeking causes and biomarkers that will facilitate earlier identification, intervention and prevention of major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse. He is the associate director of the Medical Genetics Research Center and director of the psychiatric genetic epidemiology and neurobiology laboratory at SUNY. NARSAD is funding Dr. Glatt’s research with two Young Investigator awards. Also, he is currently the principal investigator on National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies of schizophrenia and autism.
Also to be honored will be three extraordinary individuals with the second annual NARSAD Productive Lives Awards. Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Elyn Saks, Esq., Ph.D., and Andrew Solomon are being recognized for their lifelong struggle with mental illness, demonstrating that recovery is possible.