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D'Souza Named Inaugural Vikram Sodhi ’92 Professor of Psychiatry

June 05, 2024

A new endowed professorship at Yale School of Medicine seeks to advance the important research of Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD and expand upon the university’s leadership in medical sciences.

Established by Vikram Sodhi ’92, managing partner of Sun Valley Investments and founder of the Sodhi Foundation, the inaugural professorship is the first at the Yale School of Medicine to be provided by or named after a person from India.

The endowed position will provide critical resources and support for D’Souza to pursue cutting-edge research in the therapeutic applications of psychedelics. Expanding upon his foundational and groundbreaking work exploring how chemicals like psilocybin and ketamine interact with the brain, further research may uncover new potential treatments for persistent neuropsychiatric conditions like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Sodhi called his years at Yale “a transformational experience” and highlights that this gift aspires to transform our collective understanding of this nascent and compelling body of research. His time as a student, he continued, “was a launchpad for my life and career and provided the opportunity to be immersed in a global community that embodied the university’s mission of improving the world today and for future generations.”

He said D’Souza’s scholarship exemplifies Yale’s mission and pioneering role in the field.

“Dr. D’Souza has made significant contributions to exploring the therapeutic potential of different drugs for several neuropsychiatric conditions,” Sodhi said. “These efforts will hopefully drive the field forward in pursuit of solutions that will benefit society as a whole and change lives for the better. Amidst a complex regulatory environment, this endowed professorship provides the resources to catalyze new knowledge in the area of psychedelic and other therapies for conditions like PTSD and depression, which impact millions of people across the globe.”

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 3 percent of the global population experiences PTSD in a given year. The National Comorbidity Survey Replication estimated that 6.8 percent of Americans will have PTSD at some point in their life.

While more study is necessary, current research suggests that roughly a third of those with PTSD do not respond to traditional treatments, emphasizing the urgent need for investment in deeper understanding and discovery of new and innovative therapies.

“Neuropsychiatric disorders account for a significant cause of global disease burden,” D’Souza said. “While many treatments for these conditions exist, there remains a great need to develop treatments that work faster, better, last longer and are safe.

“In the past decade there is growing interest in the therapeutic potential of drugs that are commonly referred to as serotonergic psychedelics. Early research suggests that unlike most existing treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders, psychedelics may produce rapid and long-lasting reductions in depression, after just one or two doses,” he said. “While early research suggests that these drugs hold promise, there is a need for much more research to answer fundamental questions about them before they can be used clinically.”

D’Souza holds several leadership positions in the Yale Department of Psychiatry and at Yale School of Medicine.

He is director of the Yale Center for the Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, a research center established in 2023 where scientists are studying the acute and chronic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on neurodevelopment and mental health.

He directs the Schizophrenia Neuropharmacology Research Group at Yale, the Neurobiological Studies Unit at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and the VA-Connecticut Mental Health Center Schizophrenia Research Clinic.

D’Souza said he is “deeply honored” to receive the endowed professorship.

The generous support from Sodhi, he said, “will allow me to devote more time and effort toward studying psychedelics and other drugs. On a more personal note, that this endowed chair position is the first in the school of medicine to be supported and named after someone from India, my country of origin, makes it even more special.”

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on June 04, 2024