Marie Åsberg wins 2022 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award

Press release: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)

16 June 2022

Marie Åsberg’s lifelong research contributions to psychiatry and pharmacology recognised by the 2022 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award

The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) is pleased to announce Marie Åsberg as the recipient of the 2022 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award, in recognition of her career-long achievements in clinical pharmacology, and especially the science of depression. The ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award is presented annually and recognises distinguished research in applied and translational neuroscience.

Marie Åsberg’s career spans over half a century at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, where, in addition to holding a professorship in psychiatry from 1984, she has held multiple leadership positions. In that time she has made multiple pioneering contributions that have fundamentally shaped the field of neuropsychopharmacology.

Her record of remarkable achievement began with her dissertation work on the influence of plasma concentrations on the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs. She demonstrated that, for this class of drugs, treatment guided by dose rather than by plasma concentration resulted in suboptimal treatment. She also established a genetic basis of this variability, laying the groundwork for subsequent research, and identifying functional genetic variation in CYP2D6 and other metabolic enzymes as important biological moderators of treatment responses.

She then pioneered analyses of serotonin metabolites in the CSF, and found that low levels of 5HIAAA in the CSF are associated with a significantly elevated risk of death through suicide. She also demonstrated that this was likely because low 5HTIAA was linked to impaired impulse control. This finding was the first to challenge exclusively psychological and social explanations of suicidal behaviour, and opened up entirely new approaches to the understanding of suicide and the identification of suicide risk.

Together with Stuart Montgomery (1999 winner of the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award), Åsberg also designed the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, or MADRS. This is one of only two instruments to measure depression severity with sufficient validity to be accepted by the FDA and EMA as an endpoint in antidepressant trials. Her landmark paper on this topic has been cited more 13,000 times.

Besides her scientific contributions, Åsberg has been a longstanding champion of psychiatry, educating generations of residents, physicians and medical students about affective illness, suicide, and how scientifically based diagnosis and treatments can live in harmony with a deeply humanistic view of the patient experience. She has been instrumental in encouraging policy makers and the general public to improve their understanding of psychiatric disorders and the people who suffer from them. At the age of 84, she maintains competitive research funding, teaches medical students, and continues to be a vocal an ambassador for the field.

In announcing the award, ECNP Award Committee chair Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Germany, said, “Marie Åsberg is a phenomenon. An extraordinary scientist, outstanding research leader and tireless public advocate for psychiatry and the understanding of mental illness, she is the embodiment of the highest ideals of our field. Her research achievements in a multitude of areas have made her a towering figure in European neuroscience and an inspiration to us all. It is a great pleasure to award her the 2022 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award in clinical research.”

Marie Åsberg will receive the award during the 35th ECNP Congress on 15-18 October 2022 in Vienna, Austria, where she will deliver the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award Plenary Lecture.

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The ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award recognises innovative and distinguished research achievements in applied and translational neuroscience. The award is granted each year, alternating between basic science and clinical research. The award is accompanied by a prize of €10,000.

ECNP is an independent scientific association whose mission is to advance the science of the brain, promote better treatment and enhance brain health. The annual ECNP Congress attracts some 5,000 scientists and clinicians from across the world to discuss the latest advances in brain research in Europe’s largest meeting on brain science. More information about ECNP, its aims and activities, can be found at www.ecnp.eu.

More information on the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award can be found here.

Contact:
Tom Parkhill
ECNP Press Officer
Tel. +39 349 238 8191 (mobile)
E-mail: [email protected]