National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D., has named Markus Heilig, M.D., Ph.D., as Chief of the Laboratory of Clinical Studies (LCS), and Clinical Director in NIAAA's Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research.
"We are fortunate to have Dr. Heilig in these important positions," says Dr. Li. "He is an outstanding clinician and a highly respected neuroscientist who has demonstrated a unique ability to translate preclinical basic neuroscience research into possible new treatments."
A native of Poland, Dr. Heilig comes to NIAAA from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, where since January of 2002 he has served as Chief of Research and Development in the Division of Psychiatry in the southern Clinical Neuroscience Department. From 1997 through 2001, Dr. Heilig directed an addiction medicine department at Karolinska that conducted preclinical and clinical research and research training in addiction medicine.
Dr. Heilig received the M.D. degree from Sweden's Lund University in 1986 and a Ph.D. in psychiatric neurochemistry from the same institution in 1989. He then pursued postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute in California and completed a clinical transition fellowship at Goteborg University in Sweden.
As NIAAA Clinical Director and Chief of the Laboratory of Clinical Studies, Dr. Heilig will oversee the only clinical laboratory in the NIAAA intramural research program. The LCS conducts investigations into the effects of acute and chronic alcohol consumption and studies the effects of drug treatments on patients with carefully defined neuropsychiatric and medical diagnoses as well as patients with a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and dependence.
"Dr. Heilig has a unique strength and interest in translational research in the neurobiology of alcoholism," notes Dr. Li, "an area where few people are as highly qualified as he is. He has carried out both basic and clinical research on topics ranging from gene expression to treatment of addiction."
Dr. Heilig's research has focused on the neural mechanisms underlying motivation and emotion, with special emphasis on the stress response and anxiety, and on the neurobiological basis of drug and alcohol dependence. He is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking research on neuropeptide Y, a peptide with a major role in emotionality and alcohol-seeking behavior. Author of the standard addiction medicine textbook used in Sweden, Dr. Heilig has been an advocate for public education to remove the stigma of addiction and counter the popular perception that addiction is the product of a character defect.
In addition to his scientific and clinical accomplishments, Dr. Heilig has been a leader in addiction research in the European Community, having organized a trans-European initiative in drug dependence as well as a number of conferences and other meetings to promote this effort. He also has initiated collaborations among scientists at the Karolinska Institute, the Scripps Research Institute in California, and the Rockefeller University in New York.