Matthew State Awarded Sarnat Prize for Mental Health Research

Prize Recognizes People, Groups That Have Demonstrated Outstanding Achievements in Improving Mental Health

By Nina Bai

Matthew State, MD, PhD, the Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor, chair of psychiatry, director of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, is one of three recipients of the 2017 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health given by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

Matthew State
Matthew State, MD, PhD

The other winners are Catherine Lord, PhD, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at Weill Cornell Medicine and Joseph Coyle, MD, Eben S. Draper Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and Mclean Hospital.

Since 1992, the Sarnat Prize has recognized individuals or groups that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in improving mental health, through fields such as neuroscience, psychology, social work, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy. Nominations for potential recipients are solicited form Academy members, deans of medical schools, and mental health professionals.

State is a child psychiatrist and geneticist studying pediatric neuropsychiatric syndromes with a focus on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Tourette syndrome. This year’s Sarnat Prize highlights his work on the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a cohort of nearly 3,000 families that transformed autism genetics. Beginning in 2007, State led a consortium of a dozen laboratories from across the U.S. and Canada that made seminal discoveries regarding the role of spontaneous (de novo) mutations to ASD. His collaborator, Lord, led the multi-site clinical research effort that established the SSC cohort, which has become a leading international biorepository and data resource for the study of ASD.  

Over the last decade, State’s lab has identified dozens of genes and small chromosomal abnormalities, called copy number variations, that carry large risks for autism. Among his most notable discoveries has been the contribution of rare spontaneous autism-related mutations in the gene SCN2A and the finding that additional copies of the chromosomal region, 7q11.23, lead to ASD. His laboratory has also been a leader in leveraging the understanding of autism genetics to clarify the neurobiology of the syndrome, finding that the genes identified by studies of the SSC point to a crucial role for the human prefrontal cortex during mid-fetal development.

“Through their pioneering research and clinical work, Joseph Coyle, Catherine Lord, and Matthew State have made profound contributions to the understanding of a range of serious neuropsychiatric disorders,” NAM President Victor J. Dzau said in a statement.

The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the national and the international community.

Read the full press release about the 2017 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health »

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