COVID-19 Show message

Skip to content

Principal Investigator

Photo of Francis McMahon

Francis McMahon, M.D.


Dr. McMahon received a BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982 and an MD from Johns Hopkins in 1987, where he also completed a medical internship, a residency in adult psychiatry, and a post-doctoral fellowship in genetics. In 1998, he moved to the University of Chicago, where he continued his research into the genetics of bipolar disorder while serving as Medical Director of the electroconvulsive therapy clinic. In 2002, he joined the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program as Chief of its genetics unit. In 2010, he was promoted to Senior Investigator and Chief of the Human Genetics Branch. He is also a visiting Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. McMahon’s research is aimed at discovering and characterizing genes involved in mood and anxiety disorders so that better methods of diagnosis and treatment can be developed.

Dr. McMahon is past President of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics and a Fellow in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He serves on the editorial boards of Biological Psychiatry, International Review of Psychiatry, and Molecular Neuropsychiatry, and is a scientific advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Suicide and the Rutgers University Cell & DNA Repository. He has received several awards for his work, including the 2016 Colvin Mood Disorders Prize from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. He has authored over 200 scientific reports and textbook chapters.

Research Interests

Our mission is to identify the genes that contribute to the risk for mood and anxiety disorders so that better methods of diagnosis and treatment can be developed.

Mood and anxiety disorders reflect a complex genetic architecture ranging from common alleles conferring modest risk for what may prove to be a broad range of psychopathology, to alleles that help shape the clinical picture of disease and response to treatment. Rarer alleles may also exist that confer larger risk in a fraction of individuals and families. If even a few of these alleles can be firmly identified, new windows into the pathobiology of common psychiatric disorders may be opened, enabling the development of new methods of diagnosis and treatment. 

Selected Publications

Association of Polygenic Score for Schizophrenia and HLA Antigen and Inflammation Genes With Response to Lithium in Bipolar Affective Disorder: A Genome-Wide Association Study. International Consortium on Lithium Genetics (ConLi+Gen), Amare AT, Schubert KO, Hou L, Clark SR, Papiol S, Heilbronner U, Degenhardt F, Tekola-Ayele F, Hsu YH, Shekhtman T, Adli M, Akula N, Akiyama K, Ardau R, Arias B, Aubry JM, Backlund L, Bhattacharjee AK, Bellivier F, Benabarre A, Bengesser S, Biernacka JM, Birner A, Brichant-Petitjean C, Cervantes P, Chen HC, Chillotti C, Cichon S, Cruceanu C, Czerski PM, Dalkner N, Dayer A, Del Zompo M, DePaulo JR, Étain B, Falkai P...McMahon FJ, Schulze TG, Baune BT. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 9. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3433. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 29121268.

A population-specific reference panel empowers genetic studies of Anabaptist populations.. Hou L, Kember RL, Roach JC, O’Connell JR, Craig DW, Bucan M, Scott WK, Pericak-Vance M, Haines JL, Crawford MH, Shuldiner AR, McMahon FJ.. Sci Rep.. Jul 20;7(1):6079. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05445-3. PMID: 28729679.

Finding Rare, Disease-Associated Variants in Isolated Groups: Potential Advantages of Mennonite Populations. Lopes FL, Hou L, Boldt AB, Kassem L, Alves VM, Nardi AE, McMahon FJ.. Hum Biol.. 2016 Apr;88(2):109-120. PMID: 28162000.

Symptom profiles and illness course among Anabaptist and Non-Anabaptist adults with major mood disorders.. Gill KE, Cardenas SA, Kassem L, Schulze TG, McMahon FJ. . Int J Bipolar Disord.. 2016 Dec;4(1):21. Epub 2016 Oct 12. PMID: 27734417.

Neurocognitive functioning in euthymic patients with bipolar disorder and unaffected relatives: A review of the literature.. Cardenas SA, Kassem L, Brotman MA, Leibenluft E, McMahon FJ.. Neurosci Biobehav Rev.. 2016 Oct;69:193-215. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.08.002. Epub 2016 Aug 5. Review. PMID: 27502749.

Genome-wide association study of 40,000 individuals identifies two novel loci associated with bipolar disorder.. Hou L, Bergen SE, Akula N, Song J, Hultman CM, Landén M, Adli M, Alda M, Ardau R, Arias B, Aubry JM, Backlund L, Badner JA, Barrett TB, Bauer M, Baune BT, Bellivier F, Benabarre A, Bengesser S, Berrettini WH, Bhattacharjee AK, Biernacka JM, Birner A, Bloss CS, Brichant-Petitjean C, Bui ET, Byerley W, ... McMahon FJ.. Hum Mol Genet.. 2016 Aug 1;25(15):3383-3394. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddw181. Epub 2016 Jun 21. PMID: 27329760.

Porter Bldg, Room 1A-201, MSC 3719

Phone: +1 301 451 4455
Fax: +1 304 402 9081