The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) will award Kristen J. Brennand, PhD, its 2022 Daniel H. Efron Research Award for outstanding basic research contributions to neuropsychopharmacology.
The award will be presented at ACNP’s 61st Annual Meeting December 4-7 in Phoenix. It recognizes outstanding basic research contributions to neuropsychopharmacology. The selection of the awardee is based on the quality of the contribution and its impact in advancing neuropsychopharmacology.
Brennand is Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics at Yale School of Medicine. She is a pioneer in developing novel approaches to study the biological antecedents of human psychiatric disease and has been recognized by many foundations and societies for her outstanding scientific contributions.
She was awarded the 2018 Maltz Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research by NARSAD, named a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Member in 2019, a member of American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2020, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2022.
She is also an outstanding mentor to junior scientists with a particular focus on promoting diversity in scientific and medical training. She established the Flex-Grad admissions process at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, an important recruitment pipeline for students of diverse backgrounds, and is co-director of the newly launched Yale School of Medicine Fellows Program, a recruitment and training pathway for structured promotion to faculty for postdoctoral trainees from underrepresented backgrounds.
Brennand pioneered a new approach to studying brain diseases, establishing that genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders ranging from schizophrenia to autism spectrum disorder can be modeled using patient-specific human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Today, her laboratory in the Yale Department of Psychiatry integrates hiPSC-based approaches with CRISPR-mediated genomic engineering strategies to study the impact of patient-specific DNA sequences across and between the cell types of the brain. This approach revealed that schizophrenia risk variants have dynamic impacts that depend on neuronal activity and cell type.
She also discovered that DNA sequences associated with schizophrenia regulate genes that can be millions of bases away through chromatin looping interactions. Many of her findings on schizophrenia converge ultimately on the function of synapses, the connections between neurons, and her work culminates in robustly measurable effects even in DNA variants that confer only one-percent increased risk of disease.