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Research pioneer in the developmental origins of psychiatric illness is awarded the Sackler prize

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.


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center

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