December 17, 1999

Brain function insights land VUMC’s Blakely national research award

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Randy Blakely, Ph.D.

Brain function insights land VUMC's Blakely national research award

Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D., received the Daniel H. Efron Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) at the College's annual meeting this week.

The award is presented each year to a young investigator who has made distinguished research contributions to the field of neuropsychopharmacology.

"This award is the number one honor in the entire field of brain function, behavior, and drug interactions," said Oakley S. Ray, Ph.D., executive secretary of the ACNP, professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and associate professor of Pharmacology.

Blakely, Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and director of the Center for Molecular Neuroscience, joins an elite group of Daniel H. Efron awardees.

"Some very high-profile scientists have received this award," said Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., professor and interim chair of Pharmacology and professor of Psychiatry.

Blakely is the first Vanderbilt scientist to receive the award while on the faculty. Dr. Herbert Y. Meltzer, professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, received the Efron Award in 1980, prior to joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1996.

"I am really pleased and humbled to receive the Efron Award," Blakely said. "It recognizes the hard work and creativity of my group and helps keep Vanderbilt in the spotlight as a place for important research in Neuropharmacology."

Blakely's research has focused on the family of neurotransmitter transporters — proteins that reside on the surface of neurons and act as molecular vacuum cleaners, clearing the synapse of released chemical messengers. Blakely was the first to isolate genes for the transporters that clear norepinephrine and serotonin. Drugs with important clinical or addictive properties, including antidepressants, cocaine, and amphetamines, interfere with the function of these transporter molecules.

Blakely received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed postdoctoral training at Yale University. He was on the faculty at Emory University before coming to Vanderbilt in 1995. While at Emory, Blakely was a Woodruff Neuroscience Investigator and received a Mallinckrodt Young Investigator Award.

He received an Established Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) in 1996. Blakely is an Investigator of the Autonomic Dysfunction Center and the Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, and he serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology.

The Daniel H. Efron Award was established by the ACNP in 1974 to honor the contributions of the late Dr. Efron to neuropsychopharmacology. Dr. Efron was Chief of the Pharmacology Section of the Psychopharmacology Research Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health.