Caltech Researcher and Director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience Wins Prestigious Neuroscience Prize

Caltech Researcher and Director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience Wins Prestigious Neuroscience Prize

SINGAPORE – Jan 27, 2017 – David J. Anderson, the director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech, has been awarded the 17th Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine (UNC) for “his discovery of neural circuit mechanisms controlling emotional behaviors.”

This prestigious award aims to recognize outstanding scientists who have made seminal discoveries in the field of neuroscience – previous winners for gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology, Medicine and Chemistry. The award was founded in 2000 and named after former UNC professor Edward Perl.

Anderson, PhD, the Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Caltech, is the first scientist to isolate a multipotent self-renewing stem cell for neurons and glial cells, the two main cell types in the brain. He now seeks to understand the neurobiology of emotion using cutting-edge techniques to map and manipulate neural circuits that underlie emotional behaviors in both mice and fruit flies.

The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute is a newly established philanthropic organization focused on promoting a holistic approach to better understanding the human brain.

As the director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech, Anderson is responsible for spearheading research investigations in neuroscience at the university with the goal of making transformational advances that will inform new scientific tools and medical treatments.

"I am both surprised and thrilled to have been chosen for this prestigious award by the prominent neuroscientists on the Perl Prize committee," Anderson says. "The recognition that this prize bestows belongs equally to the talented students and postdoctoral researchers who have trained in my laboratory. Without their effort and brilliance, the work that is honored here would not have come to fruition. With the recent establishment of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute of Neuroscience at Caltech, which has enabled the university’s different faculties to join forces and create new collaborations to take on challenges of modern neuroscience, we aim to bring neuroscience research to the next level. I could not be more excited about what we could achieve together."

The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech, supported by a $115 million gift from long-time philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo, was established in 2016. The institute comprises five interdisciplinary research centers and involves faculty from across the university’s six academic divisions with the shared goal of understanding the fundamental principles that underlie brain function.

“Professor Anderson and his team’s remarkable discoveries have shed new light on human psychiatric disorders. In recognition of his achievements and dedication, the Chen Institute is awarding a matching gift to Professor Anderson. At the same time, we are also exploring ways to provide further support in form of matching gifts to other award-winning scientists working with the Institute,” says Tianqiao Chen, co-founder of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute.

Chrissy Luo, co-founder of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute, adds, “We are delighted that Professor Anderson has been the recipient of the 17th Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize, which demonstrates Caltech’s leading expertise and pioneering work in neuroscience. Under his leadership, I have every confidence that the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute will drive more collaboration within Caltech to bring about bigger and quicker breakthroughs in brain research.”

Anderson, who joined Caltech in 1986, received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and doctorate from The Rockefeller University. His current research focuses on the study of neural circuits underlying innate behaviors that are associated with emotional states, including defensive behaviors and inter-male aggression. In 2007, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

About the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute

The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute was established in 2016, with the mission to promote holistic brain research focused on three areas—brain discovery, treatment, and development. The Institute partners with world-leading universities and research institutions to uncover the mysteries of the human brain and how informational input translates into behavioural output.

Long-time philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo have provided funding towards medical programs for children in China and Mongolia, supported education for underprivileged families, and contributed to disaster relief and rebuild efforts in China.

About Caltech

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering Institute that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.

The contributions of Caltech’s faculty and alumni have earned national and international recognition, including 35 Nobel Prizes. The Institute manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA, sending probes to explore the planets of our solar system and quantify changes on our home planet; owns and operates large-scale research facilities such as the Seismological Laboratory and a global network of astronomical observatories, including the Palomar and W. M. Keck Observatories; and cofounded and co-manages LIGO, which, in 2016, observed gravitational waves for the first time.

The Institute has one of the nation’s lowest student-to-faculty ratios, with 300 professorial faculty members offering a rigorous curriculum and access to varied learning opportunities and hands-on research to approximately 1,000 undergraduates and 1,250 graduate students. Caltech is an independent, privately supported institution with a 124-acre campus located in Pasadena, California.

About the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

The Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize is a $20,000 cash prize awarded by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine for a seminal discovery in neuroscience. The Prize, established in 2000, is named after former UNC professor Edward Perl, MD, who discovered that a specific type of sensory neuron responded to painful stimuli (nociceptor) and was the first president of the Society for Neuroscience.

The Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize is becoming increasingly well known among biomedical scientists. Six of its previous winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine or the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Two other Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize recipients have gone on to win the Kavli Prize, which to neuroscientists, has become nearly as prestigious as the Nobel.


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