Colleagues, friends gather to commemorate Nobel Laureate Axelrod


Luminaries from the fields of neuroscience and mental health will gather at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Monday, May 23, to celebrate the life and achievements of one of their most honored colleagues, the late Nobel Laureate Julius Axelrod, Ph.D. Dr. Axelrod, known to his friends as "Julie," spent most of his 50 years as an NIH scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH) which will host the symposium, Celebrating Julie.

"NIH is proud to have been Dr. Axelrod's scientific and intellectual home for the half century he spent conducting novel and successful research on a wide array of subjects," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "The symposium is a small way of commemorating his achievements and celebrating his memory."

Dr. Axelrod, who died in December 2004 at the age of 92, did his early work at NIMH on the metabolism of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and other psychoactive drugs. He proceeded to revolutionize the field of pineal gland research, discovering that melatonin is the gland's key hormone. He also made key discoveries about the regulation and interaction of stress hormones. But he is probably best known for his research in the early 1960's on brain chemistry, which has become fundamental to our understanding of depression and anxiety disorders. His research described the "re-uptake" mechanism in brain cells, which regulates the levels of neurotransmitters available for communication between neurons (in fact, Dr. Axelrod coined the phrase "re-uptake inhibitor"). These findings led to the development of modern antidepressant medications--Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)--and to a 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for Dr. Axelrod and two other researchers.

Dr. Axelrod's curiosity and enthusiasm inspired him to investigate many topics in science, in addition to the brain. He studied the tissue distribution and metabolism of caffeine, amphetamines, ephedrine, and narcotic drugs. Prior to his discoveries, little was known about how these drugs worked in the body. Early in his career, prior to receiving his doctorate, Dr. Axelrod discovered the pain-relieving properties of acetaminophen, better known by its brand name, Tylenol.

"The Celebrating Julie symposium will reunite many of Julie's former students, colleagues, and friends. Among them are many of today's leaders of neuroscience. I look forward to hearing about some outstanding recent discoveries there really is no better way to celebrate Julie," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

The symposium will take place from 8:25 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Masur Auditorium in the Clinical Center at NIH. NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., and NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D., will preside over the meeting. Among the prestigious group of speakers will be Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University, and Marshall Nirenberg, Ph.D., Scientist Emeritus, at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and co-winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis." The symposium will also highlight recent progress built on by Dr. Axelrod's contributions. These include the role of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances and their receptors in the brain; how the brain responds to stress; neural communications underlying appetite and addiction; and how individuals react differently to drugs depending on their genetic makeup.

Overflow rooms for NIH staff will be available in Natcher Auditorium. The symposium can also be viewed online at For more information, or reasonable accommodations, please contact Jennifer Loukissas (phone: 301-443-4536, e-mail: [email protected]).

Visitor parking is limited at NIH. Visitors are encouraged to use the Metro (Medical Center stop on the NIH campus, Red Line). The NIH, like all Federal Government facilities, has instituted security measures to ensure the safety of NIH employees, patients, and visitors. For information about access to the campus and parking, please visit

NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Government's primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Celebrating Julie

NIH Masur Auditorium
Symposium Program

8:25-8:30 a.m. Welcome
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director and Acting Scientific Director, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Morning Session Chair Juan Saavedra, M.D., Chief, Section of Pharmacology, NIMH

8:30-8:45 Science with Julie, Pre- and Post-Nobel
Irwin J. Kopin, M.D., Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

8:45-9:30 Mechanisms of Neural Life and Death
Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Professor and Director, Department of Neurosciences, Johns Hopkins University

9:30-10:00 Pharmacogenomics: Polymorphisms and Function
Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

10:00-10:30 Coffee Break

10:30-11:00 Endocannabinoids and Obesity - Is it Just the Munchies?
George Kunos, M.D., Ph.D., Scientific Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

11:00-11:25 Slow Transmission and Homeostasis at the Adrenomedullary Synapse
Lee E. Eiden, Ph.D., Section on Molecular Neuroscience, NIMH

11:25-11:40 A Brief Overview of the Pineal: Julie's Shmoo
Martin Zatz, M.D., Ph.D., Chief
Section on Biochemical Pharmacology, NIMH

11:40-12:00 The Magic Kingdom
Michael J. Brownstein, M.D.,Ph.D., Chief,
Laboratory of Genetics, NIMH

12:00-12:25 Axelrod Video Tribute
Introduced by Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director NIMH

The Axelrod Legacy and the NIH Research Mission
Elias Zerhouni, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health

12:25-1:30 p.m. Lunch Break

Afternoon Session Chair Martin Zatz, M.D., Chief, Section on Biochemical Pharmacology, NIMH
1:30-2:00 Molecular Aspects of Catecholamine Metabolism, Uptake and Receptor Signaling in the Brain Marc Caron, Ph.D., Investigator and James B. Duke Professor, HHMI Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center

2:00-2:15 A Chemist's Apprenticeship at the NIH
John Daly, Ph.D., Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

2:15-2:25 Remembering Julie-An Oral History

Marshall Nirenberg, Ph.D., Scientist Emeritus, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

2:25-2:50 Protease Pathways for Peptides in Neurotransmission and Neurodegenerative Diseases Vivian Hook, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of California at San Diego

2:50-3:20 Coffee Break

3:20-3:50 NMDA Receptor Hypofunction and the Pathophysiology of Schizophrenia
Joseph T. Coyle, M.D., Eben S. Draper Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School 3:50-4:20 The Anandamide Transporter the Missing Link in

Endocannabinoid Neurotransmission Christian Felder, Ph.D., Director Neuroscience Research,
Eli Lilly and Company

4:20-5:05 Signal Tranduction in the Brain
Paul Greengard, Ph.D., Vincent Astor Professor, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Rockefeller University

5:05-5:10 p.m. Closing Remarks
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director, NIMH

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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