Robert A. Sweet, MD Receives NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant

Robert A. Sweet, MD has been selected to receive a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants ($100,000 each) are among the most competitive in mental health research and are awarded to established scientists with a record of outstanding research accomplishments and who are pursuing particularly innovative project ideas. Dr. Sweet, UPMC Endowed Professor of Psychiatric Neuroscience, conducts research to identify targets for novel interventions to prevent or alleviate psychotic symptoms, and the cognitive and perceptual deficits linked to these symptoms, in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Dr. Sweet has served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for more than 16 federally sponsored research grants and projects and as a co-investigator for numerous other studies. In addition to his extensive research activities, Dr. Sweet is a talented mentor who directs the federally funded Training for Transformative Discovery in Psychiatry Program. He also serves as the Director of the Clinical Core of the University of Pittsburgh’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center and Co-Associate Director for Research at the Mental Illness Research, Education, and the Clinical Center at the Veterans Administration of Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

The early course of schizophrenia is characterized for many individuals by progressive cognitive and functional disability. During this period of decline progressive reductions occur in gray matter of many regions of the cerebral cortex. When individuals with schizophrenia are examined after death, they have prominent loss of dendritic spines, an essential component of gray matter and cognitive functioning. Developing treatments to prevent or reverse this loss is an important target for recovery in schizophrenia, represents a radical departure from current therapeutics, and is central to the NARSAD Mission. With the Distinguished Investigator Award, Dr. Sweet and colleagues will pursue a highly innovative line of research capitalizing on their unique conceptualization of schizophrenia as a “MAP2-opathy,” analogous to Tauopathies that are a component of multiple neurodegenerative illnesses (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia). This conceptualization arises from findings of alteration in MAP2 in schizophrenia and from the substantial sequence, regulatory, and functional homology between MAP2 and Tau.

We anticipate that we will be able to use the deep knowledge of Tau biology, including emerging Tau therapeutics, to enhance treatment development in schizophrenia,” said Dr. Sweet.

Congratulations on this notable accomplishment!