July 16, 2004


CONTACT:
Ed Federico
(215) 349-5659
ed.federico@uphs.upenn.edu

 

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Researchers Honored
for Their Work on Schizophrenia and Depression

NARSAD Awards Grants Totaling $260,000

(Philadelphia, PA) – The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) has awarded $260,000 to three researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to study causes and treatments for mental illness. NARSAD is the largest donor-supported organization in the world devoted exclusively to funding scientific research on psychiatric disorders.

Wade Berrettini, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Irwin Lucki, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry – were each honored with a one-year, $100,000 Distinguished Investigator Award that provides support for experienced investigators. Monica Gonzalez, PhD, a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry, earned a two-year, $60,000 Young Investigator Award – which is given to the most promising young scientists conducting research in the area of psychiatric brain disorders. NARSAD’s president, Constance E. Lieber, says she is “proud to continue to support the efforts of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine scientists.”

The following Penn projects are being supported by the 2004 NARSAD grants:

Gene Identification
Dr. Wade Berrettini is using genetic linkage analysis in a large group of patients with either a family history of bipolar disease or schizophrenia to identify candidate genes that underlie vulnerability to these diseases.

Behavioral Effects of Neurotrophins
Dr. Irwin Lucki is studying the behavioral effects produced by the neurotrophins brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in animal models of depression and anxiety. Neurotrophins have been suggested to play a role in the actions of antidepressant drugs on the basis of biochemical studies, but their behavioral effects have not been examined.

No Light to Shed Light on Depression
Using a novel animal model for depression, Dr. Monica Gonzalez will evaluate the effect of long-term light deprivation on depression. She will study the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of the disorder in the noradrenergic locus coerulus system (NA-LC), which releases noradrenaline, and the dorsal raphe nuclei (DRN), a group of neurons in the brain. DRN’s principal neurotransmitter is serotonin. Depletion in the levels of serotonin has been associated with mood disorders like depression.

The scientific leadership of NARSAD, the Scientific Council, reviewed over 1,000 grant applications to select these current awards. The Council includes among its membership three Nobel Prize winners, the present and four former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, and many of the most distinguished leaders in psychiatric research in the major universities and medical centers around the world.

NARSAD's Young Investigator Award Program provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research. Basic and/or clinical investigators are supported, but research must be relevant to schizophrenia, major affective disorders, or other serious mental illnesses.

NARSAD's Distinguished Investigator Award Program provides support for experienced investigators (full professor or equivalent) conducting neurobiological research. Areas of particular interest to the Scientific Council include patient populations with unique or unusual characteristics and innovative projects that might not otherwise receive funding.

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PENN Medicine is a $2.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health system).

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System consists of four hospitals (including its flagship Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report), a faculty practice plan, a primary-care provider network, three multispecialty satellite facilities, and home health care and hospice.

The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) is a private, not-for-profit public charity 501 (c)(3) organized for the purpose of raising and distributing funds for scientific research in the causes, cures, treatments, and prevention of severe psychiatric brain disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression. In 17 years, NARSAD has awarded $157.3 million to fund 2,364 grants to 1,883 scientists at 321 universities and medical research institutions.


This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/july04/NARSAD.htm