March 12, 2018

Lisa Monteggia to lead Vanderbilt Brain Institute

Leading neuroscientist Lisa Monteggia has been named the Barlow Family Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente announced today.

Lisa Monteggia
Lisa Monteggia

Leading neuroscientist Lisa Monteggia has been named the Barlow Family Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente announced today. Monteggia also will be a tenured member of the Vanderbilt faculty, pending approval by the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust. She will join the university this summer.

“Lisa Monteggia is a path-breaking neuroscientist, a dedicated educator and mentor, and a highly collaborative colleague. She has a proven ability to reach across discipline lines to advance research on some of the most challenging questions and issues in neuroscience today,” Wente said. “Her innovative research and leadership are a tremendous match for the strength and excellence that the Vanderbilt Brain Institute has long exemplified. I look forward to working with her as a leader and as a colleague to continue to advance Vanderbilt’s outstanding research, teaching and training in neuroscience discovery.”

Monteggia currently holds the Ginny and John Eulich Professorship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Her laboratory focuses on the role of the molecular and cellular basis of neural plasticity as it pertains to neuropsychiatric disorders.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to serve as the director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. I look forward to working with the Vanderbilt community and leadership to advance neuroscience research, education and community efforts,” Monteggia said. “With the enormous support of the Vanderbilt community, the Vanderbilt Brain Institute is in the best position to elucidate nervous system function and identify novel treatments for brain disorders.”

Monteggia studies the neural mechanisms underlying antidepressant efficacy. Her work to identify the proteins in the brain targeted by the drug ketamine has opened the door to new possibilities for the development of drugs that mimic ketamine’s antidepressant benefits without its dangerous side effects (Nature, July 2017). She also studies the role of Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), the gene linked to autism spectrum disorder Rett syndrome, on synaptic plasticity and behavior. Her research encompasses molecular, cellular, behavioral and electrophysiological approaches using mouse models.

Monteggia was identified as the top candidate to lead the Vanderbilt Brain Institute following an extensive national search co-chaired by René Marois, professor and chair of psychology and professor of radiology and radiological sciences, and Danny Winder, a Bixler-Johnson-Mayes Professor; professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of pharmacology; director of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research; and associate director of the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program.

“The trans-institutional search committee was exhaustive in its efforts to identify the ideal leader for the Vanderbilt Brain Institute,” Wente said. “Their work has resulted in the recruitment of an outstanding new addition to the Vanderbilt neuroscience community. I am grateful to Professors Marois and Winder for their leadership and to the entire committee for their dedication to this process.”

Ronald B. Emeson has served as interim director of VBI since July 2016. Emeson, previously the institute’s associate director, is the Joel G. Hardman Professor of Pharmacology, professor of biochemistry, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“I appreciate Professor Emeson’s leadership and service during this time of transition,” Wente said. “He has ensured that the institute’s work and momentum have continued uninterrupted and that it is poised for future success.”

Monteggia received her bachelor of science in microbiology in 1989 and her master of science in biology in 1991 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her Ph.D. from the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University in 1999, where her research focused on drug abuse. Monteggia conducted postdoctoral research in molecular psychiatry in the Yale Department of Psychiatry from 1998 to 2000. During her postdoctoral research, she received a National Research Service Award fellowship and a young investigator award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, or NARSAD.

Monteggia served as research assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical School beginning in 2000 before joining the faculty as assistant professor in 2002. She was promoted to associate professor in 2009, received the Ginny and John Elich Professorship in Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2010, and was promoted to full professor in the Department of Neuroscience in 2013. She served as thesis mentor for 10 graduate students in the UT Southwestern Neuroscience Graduate Program and as a member of the thesis committee of many more. Her published research has received more than 13,800 citations, and she is a highly sought-after speaker at scientific conferences.

As an independent investigator, Monteggia received the Daniel X. Freedman Award from NARSAD for outstanding research by a NARSAD young investigator, the Rising Star Award from the International Mental Health Research Organization, and the Daniel H. Efron Award for outstanding basic/translational research by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

The Vanderbilt Brain Institute was founded in 1999 as a trans-institutional entity to oversee and facilitate the extensive neuroscience-related endeavors carried out at Vanderbilt University. Its primary missions are to promote research, education and training in the brain-related disciplines at Vanderbilt and to foster excellence in each of these arenas.

The endowed director position was established in 2016 through a generous commitment made by David S. Barlow, a leader in the global pharmaceutical industry.