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Pharmacology society honors Sanders-Bush

BY: BILL SNYDER

4/07/2011 - Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., on Saturday, April 9, will receive one of pharmacology's highest honors — the 2011 Julius Axelrod Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).

Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D.

Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D.

The award, which recognizes outstanding scientific contributions in research and mentoring in pharmacology, will be presented to Sanders-Bush during the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, D.C.

Sanders-Bush, professor of Pharmacology, emerita, is internationally known for her studies of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in mood, appetite and memory as well as diseases such as major depression and schizophrenia.

Since joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1969, she and her colleagues have made several pivotal discoveries about serotonin synthesis, metabolism and function.

Her research has contributed to current understanding of mental illness and is aiding the search for more effective anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs.

“The Julius Axelrod Award is very special to me because it recognizes mentorship and training of young scientists as well as scientific accomplishments,” said Sanders-Bush, who has worked to enhance minority training programs at Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt.

“It's hard to think of what Vanderbilt and its neuroscience community would have been like without her,” said Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., chair of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt. “I greatly admire her scientific fearlessness and intellectual curiosity.”

“Elaine is a world-class scientist who has made … seminal contributions that have helped shape our understanding of neuropharmacology,” added Jeff Conn, Ph.D., co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery and one of her former graduate students.

“I am very thankful that I had the privilege of receiving my training from Elaine,” Conn said. “I know of no other scientist who is so fiercely committed to developing young scientists.”

In 1997 Sanders-Bush led the establishment of an interdisciplinary doctorate program in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt and served as its first director.

She also is former director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and served as president of ASPET in 2006.

In recognition of her commitment and accomplishments, Sanders-Bush was the first recipient of Vanderbilt's Levi Watkins Jr. Award for Leadership Diversity in 2002.

Other awards include the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Neuroscience Research and a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Sanders-Bush is the third Vanderbilt faculty member to receive the Axelrod Award. Randy Blakely, Ph.D., director of the Center for Molecular Neuroscience, was recognized in 2008, and Sydney Spector, Ph.D., in 1998.

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