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NIMH Grantees Receive 2013 Lasker Award

Science Update

A current and a former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grantee recently collected the prestigious 2013 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their meticulous mapping of the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotransmitter release, the process by which the brain sends and receives chemical messages. 

Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D.
Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D

Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., at Stanford University School of Medicine, and Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D., at Genentech, parsed the proteins that enable one neuron to speak to another. This communication occurs across the synapse, a gap that separates the two neurons. Collectively called the “SNARE complex,” these proteins include vesicle-associated membrane protein (VAMP/synaptobrevin), synaptogamin, syntaxin, and SNAP-25. The complex allows for the preparation and release of the neurotransmitters into the synapse. Defects in this process contribute to mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and many other pathological conditions. 

Thomas C. Südhof, M.D.
Thomas C. Südhof, M.D.
Stanford University
School of Medicine
Source: Stanford University

Dr. Südhof is a current NIMH grantee and has served on several study sections at the NIH Center for Scientific Review, in addition to the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Neuroscience study section at NIMH. Dr. Scheller received research support from NIMH, and served on both the NIMH Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Neuroscience study section, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council. Both have received the NIMH MERIT Award.

Known as “America’s Nobels” because many recipients go on to win the Nobel Prize, the Lasker Awards are among the most respected science prizes in the world. Congratulations, Drs. Südof and Scheller!