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29 November 2022

Oliver Howes receives the ACNP Joel Elkes Research Award

The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) has named Professor Oliver Howes as the recipient of the 2022 Joel Elkes Research Award.

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Professor Oliver Howes received the award in recognition of an outstanding clinical contribution to neuropsychopharmacology. It will be presented to Professor Howes at the 61st Annual Meeting of the ACNP in Phoenix, Arizona this December 2022.

Professor Howes has focused his career on clinical translational research, exploring the chemical/molecular mechanisms that underpin psychosis. His work has provided clear brain-behaviour targets that guide the design of novel therapeutic strategies looking to improve clinical outcomes in patients, notably including those for whom traditional antipsychotic medications are unsuccessful.

Professor Howes’ work has also contributed major advances in understanding the biology of treatment resistance in psychosis, identifying abnormalities in glutamate levels as a key neurochemical alteration in treatment resistance. One key insight in support of this hypothesis was that clozapine, the only drug licensed for schizophrenia, acts by reducing brain glutamate levels. This body of work has contributed to new conceptualizations of the biology of treatment resistance, ongoing development of a biomarker to identify this early in the course of illness, and identification of the compound Riluzole as a glutamatergic modulator with potential in treatment resistant schizophrenia. From this important work, there has been an explosion of research interest in this area.

Oliver Howes
Oliver Howes, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Professor Oliver Howes is Professor of Molecular Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London where he is a principal investigator in molecular psychiatry and a practicing psychiatrist. He heads the Psychiatric Imaging Group, which investigates the neurobiology of major mental illnesses and the development of novel treatments.

This is great news after a tough couple of years. Joel Elkes was a pioneer in the field so I am honored to receive the award. Credit should also go to the talented students and colleagues who I’ve worked with: this is for you as well! It is good to have recognition that we are having an impact.

Oliver Howes, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Professor Howes has made important contributions toward understanding the effects of psychotropic drugs on brain function, and on the role of neuroinflammation in schizophrenia. For the former, his lab has developed and applied new methods to image brain systems in humans and animal models of psychiatric disorders, including for serotonin release and dopamine synthesis capacity, and used these to evaluate the effects of psychotropics on brain systems to understand their potential as therapies. For the latter, his lab used brain imaging to investigate brain markers of immune cells in vivo in people with or at risk for schizophrenia and showing that a synaptic terminal marker is lowered in patients with schizophrenia.

ACNP, founded in 1961, is a professional organization of more than 1100 leading scientists, including four Nobel Laureates. The mission of ACNP is to further research and education in neuropsychopharmacology and related fields in the following ways: promoting the interaction of a broad range of scientific disciplines of brain and behavior in order to advance the understanding of prevention and treatment of disease of the nervous system including psychiatric, neurological, behavioral and addictive disorders; encouraging scientists to enter research careers in fields related to these disorders and their treatment; and ensuring the dissemination of relevant scientific advances.

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Oliver  Howes

Professor of Molecular Psychiatry