A leader in recent research on the interaction of genes and environment in the development of psychiatric illness, Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D. of King's College London, has been awarded the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D., Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Developmental Psychobiology. Presented jointly by the Sackler Institute for Development Psychobiology at Columbia University Medical Center and the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, the $60,000 award honors the 90th birthday of Dr. Sackler, and was established through gifts by his seven children.
The award was announced on Dec. 7 at the Sackler Institute for Development Psychobiology at Columbia University Medical Center. On April 25, 2008, Dr. Caspi will give grand rounds in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, and on April 30, he will give grand rounds at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. During his visit to New York City he will meet with physicians/scientists at both institutes.
Dr. Caspi's work has combined new knowledge of commonly occurring gene variants linked to psychiatric illnesses, such as major depression, with careful longitudinal studies that have provided quantitative measures of specific early stressors, such as child abuse. The results have delineated the interactions of specific gene variants with certain defined early environments to explain a significant portion of the previously baffling variance between individuals in their vulnerabilities to psychiatric illness.
"This work, at last, gives us the basis for studying the mechanisms of gene-environment interaction itself, instead of simply using the phrase as a metaphor for the complexities of development," says Myron Hofer, director of the Columbia Sackler Institute.
"Dr. Caspi's work underscores the importance of the developmental perspective and how the mature being is greatly influenced by experiences during development in combination with biological/genetic predispositions," adds Dr. B.J. Casey, the Sackler Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D.
Dr. Avshalom Caspi is professor in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre at King's College London and the Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley Hospital. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Dr. Caspi earned his master of arts degree and doctorate in developmental psychology from Cornell University. He taught at Harvard before joining the University of Wisconsin faculty in 1989 and began his present appointment with the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London in 1997.
The Sackler Institute
The Sackler Institute for Development Psychobiology was endowed and established at Columbia University Medical Center, in 2001 by the Sackler Foundation and is dedicated to research into the complex processes underlying the development of psychiatric illness at levels ranging from the molecular to the psychological.
The Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, established and endowed in 1998 by the Sackler Foundation, is focused on research and training using the techniques of brain imaging, human genetics, electrophysiology, and behavioral methods, to study typical and atypical human brain development.
Columbia University Medical Center
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, public health professionals, dentists, nurses and scientists at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. For more information, visit www.cumc.columbia.edu.
Weill Cornell Medical College
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Weill Cornell, which is a principal academic affiliate of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, offers an innovative curriculum that integrates the teaching of basic and clinical sciences, problem-based learning, office-based preceptorships, and primary care and doctoring courses. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research in areas such as stem cells, genetics and gene therapy, geriatrics, neuroscience, structural biology, cardiovascular medicine, infectious disease, obesity, cancer, psychiatry and public health -- and continue to delve ever deeper into the molecular basis of disease in an effort to unlock the mysteries of the human body in health and sickness. In its commitment to global health and education, the Medical College has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances -- including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally-conscious brain-injured patient. For more information, visit www.med.cornell.edu.