Ezra Susser, M.D., Dr.P.H., receives Distinguished Investigator Award from NARSAD

April 17, 2008

April 16, 2008 -- Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH, Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Investigator Award from NARSAD, the world's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health research. Dr. Susser was selected for a study on famine and the genetics of schizophrenia taking place in China. The $100,000 award will allow Dr. Susser and an international team of researchers including Mary Claire King (University of Washington School of Medicine), David St. Clair (University of Aberdeen) and Lin He (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences) to continue their research on the hypothesis that prenatal exposure to maternal famine increases subsequent risk of schizophrenia, and to better understand the genetic mechanisms underlying this disorder.

The scientists are looking at genetic mutations among persons in China exposed in utero to the 1959-1960 famine and are collecting diagnostic data and DNA samples to evaluate these variations. Although the initial sample will include about 60 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and their relatives, the research group is also planning for additional funding to assess a much larger sample and appropriate control groups.

In an August 2006 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Susser and coauthors, Mary-Claire King and Jack McClellan, discussed how persons conceived during the height of two 20th Century famines experienced increased risk of schizophrenia, compared with unexposed persons, and new developments in uncovering the possible genetic bases. Concurrent to this work, Dr. Susser oversees a series of studies in the United States, known as the Prenatal Determinants of Schizophrenia (PDS), which is connected to a larger program of lifecourse and birth cohort research focused on early influences on adult health. Dr. Susser is also director of the Imprints Center for Genetic and Environmental Lifecourse Studies, at the Mailman School of Public Health and New York State Psychiatric Institute.
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For the past 20 years, NARSAD has given $219 million and 3,238 grants to researchers who have helped pioneer breakthroughs in deciphering how the brain develops, how its component parts act, and how this key organ may differ in people with mental illness. Their efforts have led to new drugs, devices and rehabilitative approaches to care for people with a wide range of brain and behavior disorders.

Formed by three leading national mental health organizations (The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, The National Mental Health Association and The National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association), NARSAD invests in the most promising scientific research worldwide to unravel the complexities of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and many other psychiatric diseases including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar disorder. The organization continues to support the researchers as they develop the next-generation of diagnostics and treatments for these conditions.

About the Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City, and among the first in the nation, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health provides instruction and research opportunities to more than 1000 graduate students in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Its students and more than 300 multi-disciplinary faculty engage in research and service in the city, nation, and around the world, concentrating on biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, population and family health, and sociomedical sciences. www.mailman.hs.columbia.edu

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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