VCU Researcher Honored by the World Psychiatric Association with Prestigious Jean Delay Prize

The World Psychiatric Association has named Kenneth Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry, and human and molecular genetics in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, a recipient of the Jean Delay Prize.

The Jean Delay Prize, sometimes regarded as the “Nobel Prize” of psychiatry, honors a scientist who has made a major contribution in building bridges between the biological, psychological and social aspects of psychiatry. The awardee is selected by an international jury. Kendler, who is internationally recognized for his pioneering research in psychiatric genetics, is the second American psychiatrist to be honored with this award.

“The Jean Delay Prize is the most prestigious prize awarded by the World Psychiatric Association and possibly the most prestigious prize in the field of psychiatry,” said Mario Maj, M.D., president of the World Psychiatric Association.

Since the early 1980s, Kendler has studied the genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders including schizophrenia, major depression, alcoholism, personality disorders and nicotine dependence. His work has focused both on large-scale twin studies, clarifying the developmental pathways through which genes and environment contribute to risk of illness, and on the molecular studies focused on identifying the nature of specific genes that influence vulnerability to schizophrenia, alcoholism and nicotine dependence.

In recent years, Kendler has written a range of papers examining key conceptual and philosophical issues in psychiatry. These include the relationship of mind and brain, the limitations of reductionist models of psychiatric illness and the need, given the highly multifactorial nature of psychiatric illness, to integrate scientific approaches that include genetic, biological, psychological and social-environmental perspectives.

“This honor represents the significant contributions Dr. Kendler has made to the field of psychiatry. He has been instrumental in positioning VCU as a leader in psychiatric genetics,” said Joel Silverman M.D., professor and chair in the Department of Psychiatry in the VCU School of Medicine.

In 1984, Kendler, together with VCU colleague Lindon Eaves, M.D., distinguished professor of human genetics and co-director of VCU’s Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, initiated the largest, most comprehensive twin study of psychiatric and drug use disorders conducted in the United States based on 20,000 interviews with twins and their parents.

As the director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU, Kendler leads a world-renowned team of behavioral scientists who are attempting to more clearly understand the genetic and environmental influences on behavior. Working with key colleagues at VCU, especially Michael Neale, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, and Lindon Eaves, he has played an important role in the development of a number of statistical and developmental models used by both the academic and scientific communities to understand the genetic and environmental factors contributing to a range of psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.

Together with Michael Miles, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the VCU Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Neurology, Kendler co-directs the VCU Alcohol Research Center. With his close colleague, Danielle Dick, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, Kendler is planning a project titled, “Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey,” which would give all incoming VCU freshman an opportunity to participate in a survey and DNA collection focusing on mental health and substance use in the fall of 2011.

Kendler has published more than 640 articles in peer-reviewed journals and serves on several important editorial boards. He is the editor of Psychological Medicine and is a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Throughout his career, he has been honored with many national and international awards for his research contributions. He received his medical and psychiatric training at Stanford University and Yale University, respectively.

The Jean Delay Prize includes a diploma, a medal and a check for 40,000 Euros. Kendler will deliver a plenary lecture and receive the award during the Opening Session of the World Congress of Psychiatry in Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 18, 2011.

The Jean Delay Prize is named after the president of the first World Congress of Psychiatry and the first president of the World Psychiatry Association. The award is supported by a grant from Servier.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

Kenneth Kendler, M.D.
Kenneth Kendler, M.D.