[April 6, 2012]
Dr. Todd Sacktor Receives MERIT Award from National Institute of Mental Health:
Prestigious Award Is a Symbol of Scientific Achievement
Todd C. Sacktor, MD, distinguished professor of physiology and pharmacology and of neurology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has received a MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for his research on memory.
Dr. Sacktor’s research, which has been called “paradigm-shifting,” has focused on determining the mechanism of long-term memory. He discovered the molecule protein kinase M zeta (PKMzeta) and with colleagues demonstrated that it is essential for memory storage. Using the agent ZIP (zeta inhibitory peptide), which cancels the effect of PKMzeta, he and colleagues showed that the drug erases memory in laboratory animals without harming their ability to learn future memories.
The prestigious MERIT award is offered to a limited number of investigators who have demonstrated superior competence and productivity during their previous research endeavors and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner in the future. Fewer than five percent of funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigators are selected to receive MERIT awards.
Dr. Sacktor’s research not only revealed an important component of how memories are processed and stored, but also has broad implications for the possible treatment of memory disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as chronic pain, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phantom limb syndrome. Most recently, Dr. Sacktor and colleagues discovered that PKMzeta can enhance or strengthen old memories.
The MERIT award program was initiated by the NIH in l986 and has become a symbol of scientific achievement in the research community. The principal feature of the MERIT award is the opportunity to obtain up to ten years of research support in two segments, an initial MERIT award and a possible MERIT extension, relieving grant awardees of the need to prepare frequent renewal applications. Investigators cannot apply for MERIT awards, but rather are selected by the NIH through an internal review process. Selection of NIMH MERIT awardees is based on nomination by NIMH program staff, with concurrence and favorable recommendation by the National Advisory Mental Health Council.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.
SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.