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NARSAD announces 2008 Prizes for Outstanding Achievement in Research on Mental Health Disorders

(New York, Oct. 16, 2008) NARSAD, the world's leading charity dedicated to mental health research, will award its annual prizes tomorrow -- among the most coveted in psychiatry and neuroscience to six prominent scientists whose research in the areas of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, childhood disorders and cognitive neuroscience have led to significant strides in the understanding and treatment of mental illness.

The prizes will be presented at NARSAD's 21st annual New York City gala, this Friday, October 17, at the Waldorf-Astoria, in Manhattan. The event will also honor Herbert Pardes, M.D., president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, who has served as president of NARSAD's Scientific Council since its formation in 1986.

The 2008 prize winners, who were selected by NARSAD's 109-member Scientific Council, a volunteer body of leading experts in mental health research, include:

  • Irving I. Gottesman, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, a pioneer nearly half a century ago of the genetic study of mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia, who will receive the Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research;

  • Charles L. Bowden, M.D., of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, whose research has focused on the symptomatic and biological characterization of bipolar disorder, as well as the effectiveness of mood-stabilizing drugs, and Mark S. George, M.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina, one of world's leading experts in the use of brain imaging and stimulation to understand depression and to devise new antidepressant treatments, who will both receive the Falcone Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research;
  • Eric A. Taylor, M.D., of King's College London, a leader in child psychiatry in Europe, whose groundbreaking research on conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has led to new understanding of these conditions and improved criteria for their diagnosis and treatment, who will be awarded the Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research;
  • Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., Mount Sinai Medical Center, whose basic research studies in animal models have elucidated fundamental processes in brain development and disorders such as depression and drug abuse, who will receive the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience; and
  • Angus W. MacDonald, III, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, an early-career scientist who is conducting promising research on the genetic and neural causes of schizophrenia, who will be awarded the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Schizophrenia Research.

NARSAD began awarding prizes in 1987, with the introduction of the Lieber Prize, and over the years added the other prizes as a way to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of brain science and the improvement of treatment options for patients.

Previous winners of NARSAD's Lieber Prize include two scientists who subsequently received the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 2000: Arvid Carlsson, M.D., of Gothenberg University in Sweden (Lieber Prize, 1994) and Paul Greengard, Ph.D., of Rockefeller University (Lieber Prize, 1996).

Since NARSAD began funding research in 1987, it has distributed more than $238 million in grants to over 2,700 scientists at 431 universities, medical centers and research institutes in the United States and 27 other countries. In 2008 alone, NARSAD administered a record level of grants, supporting 799 scientists who are conducting clinical and basic research relating to depression, anxiety disorders, including PTSD and OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, childhood mental disorders, including autism and ADHD, and many other conditions.

Preceding the awards gala on Friday, there will be a free, public symposium on new developments in mental health research, featuring NARSAD Young Investigators who are conducting particularly innovative and promising research. The scientists will present new findings in basic and clinical research on depression, schizophrenia, compulsive behaviors, the genetics of mental illness, newly identified brain pathways for treatment, and early diagnosis and intervention in children and teens with mental disorders. The symposium will be held at the Times Center, 242 West 41st Street in Manhattan, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

NARSAD's 2008 Prizes for Outstanding Research Achievement

Irving I. Gottesman, Ph.D., the recipient of this year's Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research, is the Irving and Dorothy Bernstein Professor in Adult Psychiatry and senior fellow in psychology at University of Minnesota; and the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of Virginia, where he was affiliated for 18 years before assuming his Minnesota post.

He has also served on the faculties of Harvard University, the University of North Carolina and the Washington University School of Medicine. For nearly half a century, as researcher and mentor, he has pioneered in the genetics of mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia. Dr. Gottesman's contribution to the field of psychiatry has resulted in numerous breakthroughs, from his early studies suggesting that psychiatric disorders could represent the extremes of normal distributions of genetic liability for such illnesses, and that underlying the liabilities were polygenic systems a novel idea at the time, to his founding of the National Institute of Mental Health's doctoral training program in behavioral genetics. He went on to lead that program for 14 years.

"This year's Lieber Prize is awarded to Dr. Irv Gottesman for his outstanding investigations of behavioral phenotypes and genetic predispositions acting with environmental factors over the course of development," commented William E. Bunney, Jr., M.D., Distinguished Professor and Della Martin Chair of Psychiatry at University of California, Irvine, who chairs NARSAD's Lieber Prize Selection Committee. "His concept of endophenotypes constitutes a critical scientific contribution and has been enthusiastically incorporated into a large number of research studies. One of his most internationally recognized investigations involves his twin studies in schizophrenia."

NARSAD's 2008 Falcone Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research is being awarded to two scientists for their individual contributions:

Charles L. Bowden, M.D., Nancy U. Karren Clinical Professor and professor of pharmacology and radiology at University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, has focused his research mainly on the symptomatic and biological characterization of bipolar disorders, as well as the effectiveness and biochemical and physiological effects of mood-stabilizing drugs. He has been the principal investigator for 80 studies. Dr. Bowden also holds a keen interest in underserved populations, and directs the Center for Bipolar Illness Interventions in Hispanic Communities, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, among other such activities. In one current effort, his laboratory is working to develop a comprehensive scale for all of the symptoms that make up bipolar disorders.

About Dr. Bowden's work, Robert M. Post, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and head of the Bipolar Collaborative Network, who chairs NARSAD's Falcone Prize Selection Committee, wrote: "Charles Bowden has made outstanding contributions throughout his career to the improved understanding and, especially, treatment of bipolar disorders. Many of the newest treatments have been studied by him in tightly designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials, leading to their approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and wide dissemination to patients. These have included the anticonvulsants valproate (Depakote) and lamotrigine (Lamictal), and the atypical antipsychotic quetiapine (Seroquel). These agents have vastly enlarged our treatment armamentarium and provided new options for patients with bipolar disorder, making it possible for many who have not responded well to other approaches to achieve substantial improvement or remission."

Mark S. George, M.D., the second recipient of the Falcone Prize, is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he also directs the Center for Advanced Imaging Research and the Brain Stimulation Laboratory. He is one of the world's leading experts in the use of brain imaging and stimulation to understand depression and to devise new antidepressant treatments. In early research at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. George was one of the first scientists to expand the study of brain imaging technology for psychiatric disorders. He discovered specific brain changes during normal emotion, and began exploring brain changes in depression and mania. This led to his pioneering use of a noninvasive brain stimulation method, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to probe neuronal circuits regulating mood, and to clinical trials of TMS in patients with treatment-resistant depression. This seminal work resulted in recent approval of TMS by the FDA for use within the United States.

About Dr. George's work, Dr. Post, chair of the prize selection committee wrote: "Dr. George is one of the true young pioneers of modern psychiatry. He has made seminal contributions to the development of new, nonconvulsive physiological interventions --rTMS (repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation) and VNS (vagus nerve stimulation) -- for the treatment of refractory unipolar and bipolar depression. He has also studied their mechanisms using novel brain imaging techniques and is now applying these technologies to the study of deep brain stimulation for relief of depression as well."

Eric A. Taylor, M.D., recipient of the Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research, heads the child and adolescent psychiatry department of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, where he also chairs an interdisciplinary research group on the childhood problems that lead to poor adult mental health. His interest in childhood hyperkinesis, psychopharmacology and neuropsychiatric conditions has led Dr. Taylor to participate in collaborations involving neuroimaging, experimental psychological studies and molecular genetics. His goal has been to track the development of impulsiveness and inattention in children so as to intervene effectively. His research has resulted in identifying a subtype of ADHD that has led to improved diagnostic criteria, and has validated the distinction of hyperactivity from conduct disorder. His longitudinal epidemiological studies have provided the basis for European treatment guidelines.

Judith Rapoport, M.D., chief of the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, who chairs NARSAD's Ruane Prize Selection Committee, remarked: "Eric Taylor is a leader in child psychiatry research, training and clinical services in Britain. His research focuses on the epidemiology, genetics and brain imaging of children with conduct disorder and ADHD. Currently, he is leading long-term studies of community-based (and therefore more representative) populations. He has trained many if not most of the most prominent academic child psychiatrists in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Hong Kong."

The Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience will be awarded to Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., the recently appointed Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, chairman of the department of neuroscience and director of the Brain Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York. The goal of Dr. Nestler's research is to better understand the molecular mechanisms of addiction and depression. He uses animal models to identify the ways in which drugs of abuse or stress change the brain to lead to addiction- or depression-like syndromes, information that helps him to develop improved treatments. From 2000 to 2008, he was Distinguished Professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and before that, for 18 years, professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and neurobiology at Yale University, where he also directed the Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities and the Division of Molecular Psychiatry.

"Dr. Nestler has demonstrated a remarkable ability to focus on basic science that is directly relevant to severe forms of mental illness," commented Jack D. Barchas, M.D., Barklie McKee Henry Professor and Chair of Psychiatry, Weill-Cornell Medical College, who heads NARSAD's Goldman-Rakic Prize Selection Committee. "He has led research with direct relevance to fundamental processes in brain development, as well as our understanding of disorders such as depression and drug abuse."

NARSAD's 2008 Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Schizophrenia Research will be presented to Angus W. MacDonald, III, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and director of the Translational Research in Cognitive and Affective Mechanisms Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. Dr. MacDonald's research focuses on understanding the genetic and neural causes of schizophrenia, and also encompasses ways in which patients can improve their brain and real-world functioning. In earlier research, he used functional neuroimaging to identify brain regions different in patients with schizophrenia and examined whether these same regions were affected in healthy people with a genetic liability to schizophrenia. He initiated the Minnesota Consensus Group and the Schizophrenia Research Forum's "What We Know" resource in which a panel of experts, including this year's Lieber Prize winner, Dr. Irving Gottesman, his Minnesota colleague, proposed an initial list of bedrock facts about the illness.

Dr. Gottesman, who selected Dr. MacDonald for the Baer Prize, which is designated for an early-career scientist, commented about him: "Dr. MacDonald was one of the first investigators to pursue the neural basis of schizophrenia endophenotypes using functional MRI, now reported in the current issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin. I am confident in placing this large bet on his future contributions."


Contact: Kristen Simone
NARSAD, The Mental Health Research Association

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