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12/20/2002 08:00:00

Caltech Professor Receives McKnight Award for Brain Disease Research

PASADENA, Calif. — The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience will award $300,000 over three years to California Institute of Technology biology professor Paul H. Patterson for research he is conducting on mental illness.

Patterson is one of seven researchers nationally who are each being awarded the same amount in order to further their studies into diagnosing, preventing, and treating injuries or diseases affecting the brain and spinal cord.

Patterson's research is "A Mouse Viral Model for Study of the Pathogenesis and Prevention of Mental Illness." It is based on the knowledge that when a pregnant mother contracts influenza at a certain stage of pregnancy, there is an increase in the chance that her child will be schizophrenic, or possibly autistic. Patterson uses a mouse model to determine how maternal infection causes defects in fetal brain development, and to attempt to prevent the brain abnormalities.

Other McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards will go to U.S. scientists investigating Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and spongiform encephalopathies.

The McKnight Endowment Fund created the Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards to help translate basic laboratory discoveries in neuroscience into clinical benefits for patients. The first such awards were given in 2001.

"Neuroscience has made tremendous progress over the last few decades, and that progress is reflected in the research proposals we see," said Larry R. Squire, chair of the awards committee. Dr. Squire is a professor of psychiatry, neurosciences, and psychology at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, and research career scientist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego. "Scientists not only are exploring fundamental questions about the structure and function of the nervous system but are finding applications for their work in the clinical arena," he said.

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent organization funded solely by the McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and led by a board of prominent neuroscientists from around the country. The McKnight Foundation has supported neuroscience research since 1977. The foundation established the Endowment Fund in 1986 to carry out one of the intentions of founder William L. McKnight (1887-1979). One of the early leaders of the 3M Company, he had a personal interest in memory and its diseases and wanted part of his legacy used to help find cures.

The Endowment Fund makes three types of awards each year. In addition to the McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards, they are the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards, providing seed money to develop technical inventions to advance brain research; and the McKnight Scholar Awards, supporting neuroscientists in the early stages of their research careers.

Caltech Contact: Jill Perry, Media Relations Director (626) 395-3226

McKnight Foundation Contact: Kathleen Rysted

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Written by Jill Perry