Scientists Honored For Outstanding Achievements in Mental Health Research

Posted: September 21, 2012


Contact:  Laura Wells
Phone: (516) 829-0091

Scientists Honored For Outstanding Achievements in Mental Health Research

(GREAT NECK, N.Y. – September 20, 2012) The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation will celebrate 25 years of Empowering Research for Productive Lives by honoring eight extraordinary scientists at its Annual National Awards Dinner to be held at the Pierre Hotel in New York City on October 26.

“Each year, the Foundation recognizes outstanding leadership and contributions to mental health research with a number of annual prizes. Together these prizes are known as the Outstanding Achievement Prizes and are recognized by scientists as among the most prestigious honors possible in the field,” said Benita Shobe, Foundation President and CEO. Selected through a peer-review process of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council, a volunteer group of 138 pre-eminent mental health researchers, the prizes often mark the culmination of career achievements in furthering the understanding and treatment of mental illness.

In addition to the awards for scientists, the Foundation will give Productive Lives Awards to two individuals who have risen to the top of their respective professions and have devoted their energy and formidable talents to helping those living with mental illness live productive lives.

This year's Outstanding Achievement Prizewinners are:

The Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research

Michael O’Donovan, M.D., Ph.D., Cardiff University
Michael J. Owen, M.D., Ph.D., Cardiff University

Drs. O’Donovan and Owen are both Fellows of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and are among the United Kingdom’s leading mental health researchers.

Dr. O’Donovan is Deputy Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University School of Medicine, in Wales, where he is also Professor of Psychiatric Genetics. The main focus of his research has been on the genetics of schizophrenia and on basic laboratory methods related to genomics and gene regulation. His landmark research with Michael Owen involves the application of molecular genetic technology to identify specific risk genes for schizophrenia and optimize treatment decisions for individual patients.

Dr. Owen is Founder and Director of the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and Director of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at the Cardiff University School of Medicine where he is also Professor of Psychological Medicine and Deputy Head and Dean of Research. Dr. Owen has made pioneering and sustained contributions to schizophrenia and genetic research. In collaboration with Michael O’Donovan, Dr. Owen applies a combination of molecular genetic approaches to identify the specific genetic variants that confer risk of mental illness and has identified a large number for schizophrenia, demonstrating that many overlap with bipolar disorder.

The Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research

Eduard Vieta, Ph.D., University of Barcelona
Dr. Vieta is Professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Bipolar Disorders Program of the Hospital Clinic at the University of Barcelona. He is also the Director of the Bipolar Research Program of the Spanish Research Network on Mental Diseases. Dr. Vieta has made remarkable contributions to the understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder that have helped improve the lives of millions of individuals with bipolar disorder around the globe. His studies range from those that have demonstrated the efficacy of the most widely used atypical antipsychotic—quetiapine (Seroquel®)—in monotherapy and combination therapy in the long term prevention of both manic and depressive episodes to one that showed the effectiveness of gabapentin (Neurontin®) as augmentation therapy in long term prophylaxis. He and his group have also pioneered in demonstrating the acute and lasting effectiveness of psycho-education and related psychotherapeutic approaches in the treatment of bipolar disorder.   

Karen Dineen Wagner, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Dr. Wagner is the Marie B. Gale Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. An internationally recognized expert in the treatment of childhood mood disorders, she has pioneered studies of childhood bipolar and unipolar mood disorders. Her work has helped in the development and implementation of the most optimal approaches to childhood bipolar disorder, increasingly recognized as a common, difficult to treat and often highly disabling disorder.

The Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Research

Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D., Yale University
Dr. State is the Donald J. Cohen Professor of Child Psychiatry, Psychiatry and Genetics, and Deputy Chairman for Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. State represents a rare combination of a clinically trained child psychiatrist who also has received a Ph.D. in genetics. His research centers on the search to discover genes related to neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and is recognized as one of the most outstanding scientists in the discovery of rare genetic variants as risk factors for autism. Applying rapidly evolving technologies of molecular genetics, his work is helping to illuminate the molecular and neurobiological underpinnings of these disorders toward the goal of translating research findings into new and more effective treatments.

Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Dr. Geschwind is the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Chair in Human Genetics and is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is director of the Neurogenetics Program and the Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) and co-director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics at UCLA. In addition to his fundamental quest to understand the genetic basis of human higher cognition, Dr. Geschwind is working to develop effective, targeted therapeutics for brain and behavior disorders such as autism. He and his team integrate basic neuroscience investigations with advanced technologies, such as computational and bioinformatics methods and systems biology to analyze gene expression data in the brain. Dr. Geschwind also provided the leadership that led to the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, a national resource for the study of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience

Larry R. Squire, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Dr. Squire is a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Neurosciences and Psychology at the UCSD School of Medicine and Research Career Scientist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego. Dr. Squire is one of the great contributors to neuroscience with research that is critical to both basic understanding and its application to clinically relevant processes. His path-breaking work on memory mechanisms has been of enormous importance and has been performed with exquisite care. He is also appreciated at a profound level for his unusual excellence as a thoughtful and gifted mentor able to bring out the best in others and as an educator who is effective at every level. In addition to more than 450 research articles, Dr. Squire is the author of Memory and Brain (Oxford Press, 1987) and co-author, with Scientific Council Member and Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, M.D., of Memory: From Mind to Molecule (W.H. Freeman, 1999).  

The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative Schizophrenia Research

James T. R. Walters, M.D., Ph.D., Cardiff University
Dr. Walters, a 2009 NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee, is Clinical Senior Lecturer at the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University, Wales. He is a highly promising young M.D., PhD, who is researching the nature and genetic basis of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. Dr. Walters demonstrated that a schizophrenia genetic risk variant in the gene ZNF804A (discovered by 2012 Lieber Prizewinners O’Donovan and Owen) has a counterintuitive action on cognition: it is more strongly associated with a subtype of the disorder characterized by preserved cognition. In other work, he identified a schizophrenia risk gene as being associated with episodic memory and with smaller volume in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in episodic memory deficits.

This year two individuals have been selected to be honored with the fifth annual Productive Lives Awards for extraordinary contributions toward therapy and recovery from mental illness.

The Honorable Judge Steven Leifman
Miami-Dade County Court Criminal Division
Judge Leifman has served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida since 2007. As chair of the Court’s Mental Health Subcommittee, he led the examination of Florida’s approach to criminal justice and mental health to transform Florida’s Mental Health System.

Alice Medalia, Ph.D.,
Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Medalia is an international leader in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. She developed the widely used NEAR (Neuropsychological & Educational Approach to Remediation) model to help people with mental illness improve their thinking skills in such areas as attention, memory, processing speed and problem solving.

About the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is dedicated to identifying the causes, improving treatments and developing prevention strategies for mental illnesses that affect an overwhelming one-in-four people in the United States. One hundred percent of all donor contributions for research are invested in NARSAD Grants. The Foundation was formerly known as NARSAD (an acronym for National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression). Since 1987, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has awarded nearly $300 million in over 4,000 NARSAD Grants to scientists worldwide.

Please visit our website for more information on the National Awards Dinner.