Monday, Dec. 18, 2017
Three Virginia Commonwealth University faculty have been recognized in a list of the top 1 percent of most-cited researchers in 2017. The list was aggregated by Clarivate Analytics, which uses data from Web of Science, a major scientific citation indexing service, to identify qualifying researchers.
VCU faculty on the Highly Cited Researcher list for 2017 include Arun Sanyal, M.D., a professor of internal medicine in the School of Medicine; Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., a professor of psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and director of VCU’s Center for the Study of Tobacco Products; and Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine and director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.
Sanyal has gained international recognition for his work on end-stage liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, an accumulation of fat around the liver that is unrelated to alcohol consumption. He has contributed to greater understanding of the health implications and causes of nonalcoholic liver disease, and has developed a proprietary mouse strain to test potential therapeutics for the condition. Sanyal is the president, chair and chief medical officer of Sanyal Biotechnology, which was established to commercialize the mouse strain and was nationally recognized as one of the ‘Best University Startups’ of 2016.
Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., senior executive director of the VCU Innovation Gateway, which assists in the commercialization of VCU inventions and discoveries, said Sanyal’s development is “a telling example of how VCU makes it real by bringing ideas to life.”
“The DIAMOND mice model provides a crucial tool for testing and developing life-saving therapeutics against NASH and other liver diseases,” Metcheva said.
The National Institutes of Health has funded Sanyal’s research for more than 25 years. The VCU professor was honored this year by the American Liver Foundation with its 2017 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award.
Eissenberg, a member of the Department of Psychology, helped create the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, which unites faculty from VCU, American University of Beirut, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Penn State University to conduct research that informs tobacco product regulation. He and former co-principal investigator Robert L. Balster, Ph.D., a VCU professor of pharmacology and toxicology and affiliate professor of psychology and psychiatry, received an $18.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health — the third largest in VCU’s history — to establish the center.
In the past two decades, Eissenberg has received more than $30 million in federal funding, mostly from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Current research includes studies on the effects of e-cigarettes and other modified tobacco products.
Balster praised Eissenberg for strides made in the field of tobacco research.
“Dr. Eissenberg is a leader on research on novel tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and water pipes,” Balster said. “His work is important in helping the FDA and governments around the world develop regulations for these products. He has developed important collaborations with tobacco researchers around the world.”
The National Academy of Medicine awarded Kendler with the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health in 2015. The internationally known researcher has spent decades studying how genes and the environment influence the development of major depression, schizophrenia, alcohol use disorders and other psychiatric conditions.
Kendler and colleague Lindon Eaves, Ph.D, professor emeritus and distinguished professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at VCU School of Medicine, founded the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in 1996. Center researchers study the causes of psychiatric and substance use disorders that have behavioral health aspects.
In July 2015, Kendler was co-leader of an international team of researchers that published the first scientific evidence for risk genes for major depressive disorder that are shown to be present in an independent study.
Francis Macrina, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation at VCU, recognized Kendler for his productivity and leadership in the field of psychiatry.
“Dr. Kendler continues to be one of the most highly cited psychiatric researchers in the world. His publications have advanced our understanding of behavioral genetics in fields such as major depression, anxiety and substance-use disorders,” Macrina said. “His research has helped shape how mental disorders are conceptualized."
More than 3,300 authors were selected internationally as the top 1 percent cited. The United States led with the highest number of authors at 1,661, while the United Kingdom placed second with almost 350. China stood in third place with 237 authors.
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