New Sackler Foundation Gift Enhances Brain Research at Weill Cornell Medical College

Dr. BJ Casey

Philanthropy Will Advance Research and Nurture the Next Generation of Premier Scientists in Developmental Psychobiology

NEW YORK (April 26, 2012) — A gift from the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. family's Canadian foundation, La Fondation Sackler — The Sackler Foundation, has established two endowed professorships in the Department of Psychiatry and at the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and also created the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Research Fund to support its research. The gift also established an endowed fund for the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Summer Institute in Developmental Neuroscience.

The Sackler Foundation's philanthropy will buttress and enhance the Sackler Institute's decorated research into the causes of mental illness and developmental disorders, train the next generation of physician and basic scientists in mental health and mental illness, and facilitate translation of basic findings in developmental research into novel interventions and treatments.

"We are immensely appreciative of the Sackler family's generous gift that will further entrench within the Sackler Institute and Weill Cornell a rich research environment that will pave the way to understanding the emergence of mental illness and lead to prevention and better interventional therapies," says Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College.

"Mental illness and mental health do not arise in isolation but as a complex interaction of genes, environment and development," says Dr. B.J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute and the Sackler Professor of Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell. "This interdisciplinary approach, shared across the Sackler Institutes, has transformed psychiatric research as we know it in the 21st century, and is already providing new insights and discoveries for preventive and personalized medicine."

The two newly endowed Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Professorships in Psychiatry will be awarded to full professors whose work augments the Sackler Institute's efforts to improve the treatment and understanding of developmental diseases of the brain. The recipients will carry out research at the Sackler Institute and will be full-time members of the Weill Cornell faculty.

In addition, the endowed research fund will support the Sackler Institute's continuing work in developmental psychobiology and in developmental diseases, including genetic studies of atypical brain development and behavior.

The Sackler Foundation gift will advance research and nurture the next generation of premier scientists in developmental psychobiology. The gift establishes a fund that will support the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Summer Institute in Developmental Neuroscience. Last year, Weill Cornell leaders dedicated the Summer Institute to Dr. Sackler, who died in March 2010, and to the Sackler family for its longstanding support of the Medical College. The Summer Institute, slated for July 16-19, will this year focus on the themes of plasticity and learning from molecules in the lab to the bedside and will feature lectures from internationally renowned scientists in the fields of neuroscience, molecular biology, psychiatry and psychology.

The Mortimer D. Sackler family has a distinguished history of philanthropy at Weill Cornell Medical College. In 1996, a generous gift from the Sackler Foundation and certain Mortimer D. Sackler family members and related entities established and endowed the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, which is focused on research and training using the techniques of brain imaging, human genetics, electrophysiology and behavioral methods to study typical and atypical human brain development. The work of the Institute's faculty and fellows under Dr. Casey has led to groundbreaking studies that recast what was once known and considered accepted about human behavior and earned them prestigious awards, professional recognition and national acclaim. In 2008, the National Institute of Mental Health awarded Dr. Casey a $10 million grant enabling researchers at Weill Cornell and Cornell University to study the role of genes and environment on mental health and illness across human development. In addition, two Sackler-affiliated faculty in the department of psychiatry at Weill Cornell, Dr. Bruce McCandliss and Dr. Francis Lee, each won the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2007 and 2009 for their basic research in the areas of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Sackler faculty and fellows have also published numerous scientific articles in prestigious journals, including Science, Neuron and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2008, for Dr. Sackler's 90th birthday, his children established, and the Sackler Foundation later endowed, the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Developmental Psychobiology, which recognizes researchers who have advanced our understanding of the developmental processes of the mind, brain and behavior that contribute to normal development, and of the origins of mental illness. In 2010, a donation from the Foundation established and endowed two Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Associate Professorships in Psychiatry at the Sackler Institute to continue the exploration of how the brain functions, develops and goes awry in mental illness and developmental disorders.

The Sackler Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College

The Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, established and endowed in 1996 by The Sackler Foundation—La Fondation Sackler and certain Mortimer D. Sackler family members and related entities, is focused on research and training using the techniques of brain imaging, human genetics, electrophysiology and behavioral methods to study typical and atypical human brain development. The Sackler Institute at Weill Cornell is one of eight Sackler Institutes, programs and centers; others include Columbia University Medical Center; Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow; University of Sussex; McGill University; Harvard University and Kings College, London.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston. For more information, visit

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