The collaboration that advanced the discovery of ketamine to treat depression was among four Yale honorees at the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) Annual Meeting held April 20-22 in Chicago.
Gerald Sanacora, MD, PhD, George D. and Esther S. Gross Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Yale Depression Research Program, accepted the ACTS Team Science Award on behalf of an interdisciplinary team he led that contributed to the breakthrough treatment of depression . The advance represents the first new treatment for this widespread and debilitating disease in decades were able to quickly understand and develop this transformative approach,” Sanacora said in a recorded acceptance speech.
“DR. Sanacora led an extraordinary team to bring patients this paradigm shift in the treatment of depression,” said John Krystal, MD, co-director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI), Robert L. McNeil Jr. Professor of Translational Research, Chair and Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology Krystal, one of the researchers who discovered the antidepressant effects of ketamine in the 1990s, said of Sanacora, “He was a key partner in driving this important work forward.”
The Team Science Award recognizes the growing importance of interdisciplinary teams in translating research discoveries into clinical applications and recognizes individuals like Sanacora who are committed to the advancement and practice of team science. The award winners were selected by ACTS, a national organization that supports Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) programs in the United States, of which YCCI is one of the best known.
With his acceptance, Sanacora recognized the many centers, groups, and patients at Yale that were critical to the discovery and use of ketamine. These include the Yale Division of Molecular Psychiatry, the Yale MRI Center, and the Yale PET Center, which helped elucidate the mechanisms of the drug’s antidepressant effects; and the Hospital Research and Clinical Neuroscience research units, which enabled proof of the safety and efficacy of the treatment in controlled clinical trials. Most recently, he recognized the Yale Interventional Psychiatry Service for providing Sanacora’s team with the ability to rapidly implement and study ketamine treatment in real-world clinical settings.
Tara Bautista, PhD, a TL1 postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Stress Center, was named a Postdoctoral Fellow of Excellence for her research exploring behavioral health interventions for vulnerable populations, specifically a mindfulness-based intervention for stressed parents of young children. Two Yale medical scientists were also honored at the meeting with awards from the American Federation for Medical Research (AFMR), a conference co-sponsor. Physician and researcher Carlos Oliveira, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), received the AFMR Junior Physician Investigator Award for his work addressing the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children; and Kevin Sheth, MD, Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, was named AFMR Outstanding Investigator for identifying biological targets with the ability to translate into clinical treatments. One example is glyburide’s potential to prevent brain swelling in stroke patients. This work has been facilitated by advances in handheld MRI systems that Sheth is developing and evaluating. “Coupling biological translations with technological innovation is at the heart of our work,” said Sheth.
“These awards are a testament to the talent of our researchers here at Yale and our institution’s commitment to fostering a collaborative culture that allows team science to thrive,” said Brian Smith, MD, associate dean of clinical and translational research, YCCI co -Director and Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine (Hematology) and Paediatrics. “We are proud to support the innovative work of our clinical scientists and the contributions they are making to advancing healthcare.”