Miller School Human Geneticist Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

A leading human geneticist at the Miller School has been honored for her lifelong contribution to psychiatric disease research. The 2014 Snow and Ming Tsuang Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed by the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (ISPG), was presented to Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics, on October 14 at the society’s World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics in Copenhagen, Denmark. The award honors a scientist who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the field of psychiatric genetics.

“I am truly honored and humbled that the ISPG has chosen me for this award,” said Dr. Pericak-Vance. “This award represents the culmination of years of teamwork and collaborations.”

Dr. Pericak-Vance, a genetic epidemiologist and board-certified Ph.D. medical geneticist, has spent the past three decades working to discover the genetic causes of common and complex disease such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism. She pioneered the use of novel disease gene mapping methods, leading to the first association of a common genetic variant, the apolipoprotein E4 allele (APOE), to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This remains one of the most frequently cited papers in biomedical research.

Dr. Pericak-Vance’s publication record (more than 600 peer-reviewed papers with an h index of 98) demonstrates outstanding productivity and establishes important milestones in well over 30 human diseases, including neurological, psychiatric and ophthalmological diseases. She has played a significant role in five of the six most referenced papers on Alzheimer’s disease. Her research has been cited approximately 30,000 times in scientific literature, and a vast number of current genetic studies are based, at least in part, on the approaches she developed. Dr. Pericak-Vance continues to play key roles in a multitude of national and international collaborative efforts to uncover the genetic landscape of many of these common complex diseases.

“By demonstrating that genetic variants such as APOE could be found, Dr. Pericak-Vance opened the door for numerous discoveries in multiple fields that have led to better diagnoses, treatments, and drug therapies,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and CEO of the University of Miami Health System. “Her innovative work will continue to have an enormous impact on genetic research and on healthcare practices for many years to come. This award is an extremely well-deserved honor.”

Because of a lifetime of achievements, Dr. Pericak-Vance is internationally recognized by her peers as a leader in human genetics research. In 1997, Newsweek named Dr. Pericak-Vance to its “Century Club: 100 People to Watch as We Move to the Next Millennium.” She received the international “Louis D” Scientific Prize from the Institut de France’s Academie des Sciences for her Alzheimer’s disease research in 2001. In 2004, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine and honored as the Hauptman-Woodward Pioneer of Science for her innovative work in Alzheimer’s disease genetics.

In 2010, she was awarded the Claude Pepper Innovative Research Award, the Hope for Vision Humanitarian of the Year Award, and became an invited member of the European Research Council Executive Agency’s advanced grants evaluation panel; she is the only member from the United States on the panel. In 2011, Dr. Pericak-Vance received the Alzheimer’s Association Bengt Winblad Lifetime Achievement Award for her lifelong contribution to Alzheimer’s disease research, and in 2012 she was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for her distinguished contributions to the field of genetics.

Dr. Pericak-Vance is the 16th recipient of the award named for Ming T. Tsuang, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., a world-renowned leader in the genetics of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.

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