Society for Neuroscience Presents the Jacob P. Waletzky Award
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present the Jacob P. Waletzky Award to Lorenzo Leggio, MD, PhD, during SfN’s Awards Announcement Week 2020. The award, supported by the Waletzky Award Prize Fund and the Waletzky Family, is given to a young scientist whose independent research has led to significant conceptual and empirical contributions to the understanding of drug addiction. Recipients receive a $30,000 prize.
“SfN recognizes Dr. Leggio’s translational work which has advanced our understanding of how addictive behaviors develop, are maintained, and how they may be treated in novel ways,” said SfN President Barry Everitt, PhD. “Dr. Leggio’s clinical expertise, combined with his innovative research approach, has led to important contributions to addiction research and treatments.”
Lorenzo Leggio, MD, PhD, serves as a senior investigator in the Intramural Research Programs (IRPs) of both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), chief of the NIDA-IRP Translational Addiction Medicine Branch, and chief of the joint NIDA/NIAAA Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology section. His lab aims to develop new treatments for addiction by focusing on novel neuroendocrine mechanisms and the microbiome-gut-liver-brain axis. He uses a combination of biobehavioral, pharmacological, and neuroimaging approaches to investigate novel treatment targets in translational work spanning from in vitro experiments to studies in rodents, non-human primates, and human patients. Notably, he examined the role of the GABA-B receptor as a treatment target for addictive disorders and pioneered the use of the GABA-B receptor agonist baclofen to treat alcohol use disorder in patients with liver disease. He has also demonstrated that ghrelin plays a key role in the neurobiology of alcohol cravings. This work involved creating a new knockout rat for the ghrelin receptor, which is now publicly available for others to use, and has led to a current Phase 2 clinical trial of a ghrelin receptor antagonist in patients with alcohol use disorder.
In addition to his research, Leggio serves as NIH senior attending physician, chair of the NIAAA/NIDA Scientific Review Committee, associate director of the NIDA-IRP medication development program, and senior medical advisor to the NIAAA Director. He has mentored over eighty junior clinicians, scientists and trainees at all levels and received the 2015 Clinical Service Award, 2016 Mentoring Award and 2018 Scientific Achievement Award, all from NIAAA. He has also been awarded the prestigious 2018 ACNP Eva King Killam Award, the 2008 Nordmann award which recognizes Europe’s most promising young alcohol researcher, and the 2016 RSA Early Career Investigator Award, among many others.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.