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$16 Million for Neuroscience of Behavior Initiative

January 10, 2012, Volume 58, No. 17

The Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania announced the establishment of the Neuroscience of Behavior Initiative. This new initiative, funded by an anonymous gift, will strengthen Penn programs in basic, translational, clinical, and population research into the areas of addiction, depressive disorders, and neurodegenerative disease. The gift, totaling more than $16.3 million, is the largest to neuroscience at Penn Medicine, and among the largest individual gifts to medical research in the US in 2011. The gift is the first phase of what is anticipated to be a long-term investment by these donors in this initiative.

The Neuroscience of Behavior Initiative will build on previous groundbreaking work in mental and neurological research and care at Penn Medicine by uniting researchers, physicians, educators, and policy makers to improve understanding, treatments, and prevention for brain and behavioral disorders. The goal of this interdisciplinary effort is to develop new science, and to translate science into improved clinical care for patients.

The new initiative will be led by Dr. Brian Strom, chair and professor of biostatistics and epidemiology, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics at Penn, and vice dean for institutional affairs. Dr. Strom is a world-renowned epidemiologist, as well as an expert in preventive medicine and public health. He has made many significant contributions as a researcher and clinician in applying epidemiologic methods to the study of drug use and effects.

"Addiction, depressive disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases take a toll not only on sufferers themselves, but also on families, caregivers, and society as a whole. Prevention, treatment, management, and rehabilitation of these conditions are central to improving health care for millions of people," said Dr. Strom. "This gift represents an enormous opportunity and will enable us to apply ideas emerging in the study of effective interventions and treatments in a way that will benefit not only our patients, but the community as well."

Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, J. Larry Jameson, said, "Penn Medicine has a long history of leadership in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry. Today, Penn is one of the few places in the world with the depth of expertise and experience to launch such a comprehensive, scientifically rigorous, and outcomes-oriented program. This transformative gift will allow us to innovate in areas of medicine that impact millions of patients directly and society as a whole."

As part of the nation's first school of medicine, established in 1765, Penn Medicine has a rich history in the area of innovation and patient care for mental and neurologic health. Benjamin Rush, the first chair of chemistry in America, and one of the earliest teachers in the nation's first medical school, was the world's leading expert on mental diseases in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For his clinical work and scholarship, Dr. Rush is recognized as the 'Father of American psychiatry.'

Today, Penn continues to define the future of the field through advances in research, clinical care, education, and public outreach. Penn Medicine researchers have been instrumental in the development of many clinically effective treatments, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Prolonged Exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), naltrexone for addiction, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression, and the first new medication for depression in a decade. Penn researchers have also evolved the field's understanding of neurodegenerative diseases—including the landmark discoveries of key proteins in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases, leading development of biomarkers for earlier disease diagnoses in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease—and are spearheading the genetic and drug discovery efforts to combat Alzheimer's disease.

Almanac - January 10, 2012, Volume 58, No. 17