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Noted Scientist Joins Scripps Research Neuroscience Faculty

JUPITER, FL, May 4, 2012 – The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Srini Subramaniam, PhD, as an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Subramaniam, who investigates the signaling networks involved in neurodegenerative diseases, was a research associate in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University prior to joining Scripps Research.

“It’s a great honor to join the Scripps Florida faculty,” he said. “When I first visited, I was impressed with the science and the people—they were all highly focused, highly energized. Many are working on the same types of problems I am but taking different paths, so the possibility of collaboration is exceptional.”

“Srini is a dynamic researcher who will continue to make remarkable inroads in the science of neurodegenerative diseases,” said Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience. “We want to extend a warm welcome to him and his family.”

Subramaniam received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, botany, and zoology in 1992 from the University of Bangalore, India, and a PhD in neuroscience in 2004 from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, graduating summa cum laude. He also received the German Anatomical Society’s Wolfgang-Bargmann Prize, and the Young Investigator Award from the University of Heidelberg.

During his graduate studies, Subramaniam founded the Samatva Trust for Rural Education in Bangalore. The trust’s goal is to support children who excel in school but cannot pursue further education due to lack of financial support. More than a thousand students have benefited from the scholarship program. For more information, please visit www.samatvatrust.org

Subramaniam completed his postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University. In 2010, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine honored him with the Daniel Nathan Research Award.

At Scripps Florida, Subramaniam’s laboratory will focus on finding target genes involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s and developing novel therapeutics to treat them.

Subramaniam, who led the Johns Hopkins research team, uncovered the cause of brain specific damage that occurs in Huntington’s disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that affects some 30,000 Americans. In Huntington’s disease the selective brain region called striatum is damaged and the cause for this selectivity was unknown. In 2009 article in the journal Science, Subramaniam and his colleagues pinpointed a protein known as Rhes that is prevalent in the striatum as responsible for striatal damage in Huntington’s disease; Huntington’s patients often suffer from uncontrollable movement and cognitive deficits due to degeneration of striatum. Subramaniam’s findings not only explained the cause for striatal damage in Huntington’s disease, but also its unique mechanism of action, and suggested a potential new therapeutic target.

In a 2011 Nature Neuroscience study, Subramaniam found that Rhes is also involved in the uncontrollable movement, a side effect that occurs during the treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Subramaniam’s studies suggest that drugs targeted at Rhes could mitigate multiple symptoms and may have therapeutic value in more than one brain disease.

Ultimately, Subramaniam is working towards a better understanding of how various neurogenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and spinal muscular atrophy, as well as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, develop different pathologies as they progress.

“We want to understand the signaling networks that mediate the selective vulnerability of brain cells to design better therapeutic strategies to prevent or slowdown these debilitating neurodegenerative disorders,” he said.

Subramaniam lives with his wife, Neelam Shahani, PhD, who is also a neuroscientist, and two daughters, six-year-old Vyapti and 14-month-old Anvika, in Jupiter, Florida.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 3,000 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including three Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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Srini Subramaniam, PhD, has been appointed as an assistant professor at The Scripps Research Institute.
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