Brennand named Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry

Kristen Brennand’s research integrates expertise in genetics, neuroscience, and stem cells to identify the mechanisms that underlie brain disease.
Kristen Brennand
Kristen Brennand

Kristen Brennand, who in her research integrates expertise in genetics, neuroscience, and stem cells to identify the mechanisms that underlie brain disease, was recently appointed the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry.

She is also co-director of the Yale Science Fellows Program, a Yale School of Medicine initiative aimed at recruiting, supporting, and promoting outstanding young scientists from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and medicine.

Brennand completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in the laboratory of the noted stem cell biologist Dr. Douglas Melton. During her postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute, she drew international notice for publishing the first cellular model for schizophrenia. She developed a new method for reprogramming skin samples from patients into human induced pluripotent stem cells and then she differentiated these stem cells into neurons. Her initial report demonstrated that neurons derived from schizophrenia patients had profound deficits in synaptic connectivity, i.e., were less well connected to each other.

While on the faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Brennand developed a highly productive laboratory and a network of collaborations. By combining stem cell biology, psychiatric genetics, and neurobiology, she pioneered a new approach to studying brain disease. She and her collaborators shed light on the genetics and biology of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other conditions. She was interim director of the Pamela Sklar Division of Psychiatric Genomics and then director of the Alper Stem Cell Center.

Although Brennand arrived at Yale during the pandemic, she rapidly established a productive laboratory, created new interdepartmental collaborations, and distinguished herself as a valued teacher and mentor. Her laboratory also is quite well funded with competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

She also has received numerous honors. The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation awarded her the Maltz Prize for Schizophrenia Research and elected her to its Scientific Council. This year, she was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and named as a finalist for the 2022 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. She also has developed a reputation as a mentor to her trainees and other young scientists. In 2019, she received the Friedman Brain Institute Neuroscience Mentorship Distinction Award. She serves as a standing member of NIH study section and the editorial boards of seven journals in psychiatry, stem cell biology, and neuroscience.

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