June 22, 2007

NARSAD Announces 2007 Staglin Award for Schizophrenia Research

Press Release:

$250,000 grant will support pioneering research on mouse model
for schizophrenia by Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Sawa is an associate professor of psychiatry in the university’s Department of Neuroscience and director of its Program in Molecular Psychiatry. He is leading a pioneering effort to generate a powerful new mouse model for schizophrenia using a technique called in utero gene transfer that he has previously developed.

“Dr. Sawa is a pioneer, having demonstrated that changes in the DISC1 gene that have been found in some families with major mental illnesses cause a defect in fundamental aspects of brain development,” said Daniel R. Weinberger, M.D., chief of the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch of the Intramural Research Program and director of the Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Weinberg, who is a member of NARSAD’s Scientific Council and head of the Staglin Award selection committee, added: “Dr. Sawa is developing animal models based on these effects, which may be critical for the development of new treatments based on the causes of these disorders.”

NARSAD’s Staglin Prize, now in its third year, is earmarked for an early-career scientist whose research is uncovering the causes of schizophrenia and leading to improved treatments for this devastating brain disorder. Dr. Sawa’s project was chosen from applications received from scientists around the world. The award is donated to NARSAD by the Staglin Family Music Festival for Mental Health, an annual event hosted by Shari and Garen Staglin on their Napa Valley vineyard to raise funds for mental health research.

“We feel that genetics is the key to at least half the puzzle of schizophrenia and other brain disorders, and are excited about Dr. Sawa’s work on new mouse models of how schizophrenia arises in the developing brain,” said Shari Staglin.

Dr. Sawa’s innovative work has twice before been recognized by NARSAD. In 2002 and 2004, he received the organization’s Young Investigator Award. NARSAD is the world’s largest donor-supported organization dedicated to supporting innovative scientific research to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of severe mental illnesses. Since 1987, NARSAD has awarded $215 million to 2,477 scientists at 415 universities and medical research institutions throughout the United States and in 25 other countries.

NARSAD 2007 Staglin Award for Scizophrenia

For more information on NARSAD and the research it funds, visit www.narsad.org. For more information about the Staglin Family Music Festival for Mental Health, visit www.music-festival.org.


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