May 21, 2003

Internationally Renowned Genetic Researcher Ming Tsuang
Named to Prestigious Post of "University Professor" at UCSD

Ming T. Tsuang, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.

Ming T. Tsuang, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., one of the world's top researchers in human genetics, behavior and neuropsychiatric diseases, will join the faculty of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine this summer as a "University Professor," the highest honor that can be bestowed on UC faculty by the University of California Board of Regents. Tsuang will direct the proposed UCSD Institute of Human Behavioral Genomics in the Department of Psychiatry.

In announcing the appointment, Lewis Judd, M.D., chair of the UCSD Department of Psychiatry, noted that Tsuang "has led the way in increasing our knowledge of the molecular genetics of mental illness. In particular, he has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of genetics and environmental risk factors of schizophrenia, bi-polar manic-depressive disorders, and drug abuse."

Judd added that, "we are delighted that Dr. Tsuang will join us, especially since a number of other prominent institutions sought to recruit him. During our last three years at UCSD, we've built a strong program in the molecular genetics of behavior and neuropsychiatry. With Dr. Tsuang's recruitment, our program at UCSD will be second to none."

Tsuang comes to UCSD from Harvard University, where he is the Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, sponsored by Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He also served as superintendent and head of the Harvard Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. He concurrently served as the president of the Massachusetts Mental Health Institute.

Tsuang's expertise is family-genetic studies of psychiatric disorders, especially the genetic heterogeneity of schizophrenia. He conducts large-scale investigations of the genetic and environmental bases for variations in clinical features, response to treatment, and neuropsychological abnormalities.

"I'm excited about joining the outstanding faculty at UCSD," Tsuang said. "In the new Institute for Human Behavioral Genomics, my hope is to integrate existing UCSD expertise in pre-clinical genetics with large-scale human genetic studies, especially in behavioral illnesses. Our goal is to develop diagnoses and treatment of severe mental illnesses and behavior disorders, ultimately leading to prevention that will alleviate human suffering."

As director of the proposed UCSD Institute of Human Behavioral Genomics, Tsuang will oversee the participation of faculty from several UCSD disciplines, the recruitment of families for genetic studies, the analysis of vast amounts of data, and the genotyping of biological material. The Institute will be organized into functional units for clinical treatment of behavioral disorders, laboratory and human clinical-trial research, and training programs for the next generation of physician-scientists in psychiatric research. The emphasis will be translational research, which is the rapid movement of basic research findings into therapeutic applications at the patient's bedside.

Dr. Tsuang's Research Accomplishments

Studies of heredity and variation performed early in Tsuang's career confirmed the importance of genetic factors as one source of neuropsychiatric illness. His participation in a World Health Organization-sponsored cross-cultural epidemiological study of schizophrenia led him to speculate about the underlying cause of the disorder. In his 1965 Ph.D. thesis from the University of London, a study of sibling pairs with psychiatric disorders, Tsuang postulated a theory of multiple-gene causality of schizophrenia that is widely accepted today.

Convinced that the path to determining the causes, treatment and ultimately, the prevention of schizophrenia, must be preceded by a thorough examination and documentation of clinical characteristics, Tsuang began a 40-year longitudinal outcome and family study of schizophrenia and manic depression. This work ultimately provided the first evidence of a distinction between schizophrenia and affective disorders, and further provided the clinical criteria for subtypes of schizophrenia, which have been adopted, with only minor changes, by the American Psychiatric Association and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Tsuang's continuing research has focused on identifying and clarifying susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and defining the environmental risk factors that contribute to the disease. One of his findings was that relatives of schizophrenic patients have structural abnormalities and cognitive deficits similar to their affected family member with schizophrenia, even if they appear non-symptomatic. A recent environmental study focused on pre- and perinatal complications associated with doubling the risk for developing psychosis in adulthood. In particular, intrauterine infection and hypoxia seem to be associated with future development of schizophrenia in those with some genetic predisposition.

An expert in the genetics of schizophrenia and affective disorders, Tsuang developed some of the world's largest samples of sibling pairs of schizophrenics for genetic research. He chaired the steering committee of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) genetics initiative on schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and Alzheimer's Disease. He pioneered the use of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Vietnam Twin Registry to study the long-term consequences of drug abuse. Recently, in collaboration with investigators from Taiwan, Tsuang accomplished gathering 600 families with two siblings affected with schizophrenia, obtained blood samples for DNA evaluation, and stored the results in libraries created by the National Institutes of Health. He has used these databases to evaluate neurodevelopmental deficits and other factors for developing schizophrenia, which appear to predict future onset of the disorder in children at risk. With the support of the National Institute of Mental Health, he and his team are now studying children born to schizophrenic parents to identify risk factors and protective factors, in terms of future development of schizophrenia.

Additional Background Information

In addition to his exceptional research background, Tsuang has an outstanding publication record with groundbreaking papers throughout his career. He currently has more than 375 peer review publications, 75 chapters in scholarly monographs, and has written, edited or co-edited 16 books and monographs. Tsuang is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Genetics, which is a section of the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

The recipient of a myriad of awards for his work, this week Tsuang was presented the American Psychiatric Association Award for Research in Psychiatry. In conjunction with the award, he presented a lecture titled "Searching for Etiological Risk Factors of Schizophrenia."

His additional awards include the Rema Lapouse Award for Mental Health Epidemiology, the American Public Health Association; the Stanley Dean Award for Research in Schizophrenia, the American College of Psychiatrists; the National Institute of Mental Health Merit Award; the Noyes Award for Research in Schizophrenia; the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Distinguished Investigator Award; and the Paul H. Hoch Award, the American Psychopathological Association. Tsuang has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics, the Taiwanese-American Award for Achievement in Science and Engineering, and the Gold Medal Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry for pioneering contributions in the field of biological psychiatry.

Tsuang is a Member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Advisory Mental Health Council, Department of Health and Human Services. He has been elected Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, American College of Psychiatrists, and British Royal Society of Psychiatrists, Fellow and President-elect of the American Psychopathological Association, Council Member of the Taiwan National Health Research Institute, and Academician, Academia Sinica of Taiwan, the highest academic institution in Taiwan.

Tsuang earned his M.D. in medicine from National Taiwan University's College of Medicine in 1957 and his Ph.D. in psychiatric genetics from the University of London, Maudsley Hospital, in 1965. He holds a doctorate of science in psychiatric epidemiology and genetics from the University of London (1981) and two honorary masters of science from Brown University (1983) and Harvard University (1987). He was a professor at the University of Iowa College of Medicine from 1975 to 1982 and professor and vice chairman at Brown University from 1982 to 1985. He joined the Harvard Medical School in 1985. He is now directing the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, which is focused on studies of how to prevent mental and behavioral disorders.

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The UCSD Department of Psychiatry is the highest funded psychiatric research program, per faculty member, in the United States, with an annual research budget of nearly $33 million.  The UCSD School of Medicine ranks first in the nation among all medical schools in research funding per faculty member.  In addition, in the ISI/Science Watch rankings of research impact, UCSD is 10th in psychiatry/psychology. For more information about the UCSD School of Medicine, see http://medicine.ucsd.edu/. The web site for the Department of Psychiatry is http://psychiatry.ucsd.edu/

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